Saturday, August 6, 2016

Nine Lives Review

I saw the trailer for this Kevin Spacey talking cat movie and I'm not going to lie, I thought it looked really dumb. I almost had zero interest in seeing it as I was 100 percent confident that it was going to be trash. Then the reviews came in. Suddenly I found myself in the theater watching it. No, it wasn't because the reviews were good. It was because the reviews were SO bad that I got curious. I wanted to see HOW bad this movie was. Granted there wasn't a ton of reviews, but a 3.2 on IMDb and a 5 percent on Rotten Tomatoes got my attention. As did a review from YouTube critic Chris Stuckmann who went on an absolute angry tirade against this movie. You see, I thought this was going to be a dumb movie, but one that would entertain kids to the point where you can't praise it but you also can't trash if it entertained it's target audience of 5-year-old kids. Thus is why I felt comfortable skipping it. But reviews were so bad that I was surprised myself. I had to satisfy my curiosity. Going in, I had three questions. One, is this really as bad as everyone has been saying? Two, if so, does it make it into so bad it's good territory? Three, is there any entertainment value whatsoever for young kids? Those questions are going to be the basis of this review.

First, the premise of this movie. An older man, played by Kevin Spacey, is the rich owner of a very successful business. He is both the worst boss on earth and the worst parent on earth. He's in his second marriage and no one in his life likes him at all. Except his 11-year-old daughter. She adores him to the point where she will record and watch his press conferences from his work over 80 times in a row. Let's stop right there. This tells us two things. First, we've got on our hands one of the most cliche premises you can think of. I don't need to tell you the rest. You know exactly what's going to happen. Second, an 11-year-old daughter watching her dad's press conference over 80 times in a row? Are you kidding me? Apparently our goal is to go for the worst writing ever and come up with the most unrealistic situation ever. Because heaven forbid a kid's movie present a real-life situation that people can honestly relate to. Let's continue, though. Because this father is the worst person on earth, he gets turned into a cat by this crazy cat whisperer dude and is forced to live for a time period as the family's cat. Because that's a totally unique idea that's never been done before. I wonder how this is going to turn out?

This is not going to be a spoiler review, but only because I don't care to dive into the details of this horrific plot. It's a movie aimed at 5-year-olds with the most cliche, predictable plot you can imagine. I would say that you know from the first five minutes of this movie how everything is going to turn out, but that's not completely true. You know by looking at the title and poster of this movie how everything is going to turn out. You don't even need to watch the trailer, but if you do, everything will be verified. This is about a man who is the worst person on earth, gets turned into a cat and thus realizes that he is the worst person on earth and thus is a great person once he becomes human again. That's it. You can guess that from the the title of the movie. You can guess that from the poster. You can guess that from the trailer. You can guess that from the first five minutes. They don't even make an attempt to do anything unique or creative whatsoever. In fact, this is one of the laziest movies of this whole year. If your goal is to make a fun movie for kids, you can take a predictable, cliche premise and turn it into a fun kid's movie. It just requires some good writing and a solid effort by all the cast and crew. But no. You get none of that here.

When I say you get no effort from anyone, I mean it. I don't know how this script got passed the board room, but it did. Someone accepted this and I have no idea why. The whole script is beyond awful. What's even more confusing is why Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell, Teddy Sears, and Christopher Walken accepted the roles offered to them. These are very respectable actors who should've taken one look at the script and tossed it in the trash. Maybe they saw that Barry Sonnenfeld was on board to direct and signed the contract? I mean, he's the guy who directed all three Men in Black movies. He should at least be able to take a script and do something with it, right? Nope. I don't even know who to point the finger. Talented actors and talented filmmakers were responsible and everyone across the board looked like they were there for a quick paycheck. And it's not just the director and actors that were lazy. All the special effects and sound editing was atrocious. I mean, we live in 2016. A believable, live action Jungle Book movie was just made using almost entirely computers. We should be able to make a passable talking cat movie. But no. I've seen movies from the 80's and 90's that did a better job with the special effects than this movie.

Maybe it's unfair to expect every animal movie to be on the same level as The Jungle Book. But still. Do something to make it believable. Kevin Spacey gets turned into a cat, but all we get is shots of the cat with a Kevin Spacey voice-over. Not once in the entire movie did I believe that Kevin Spacey's voice was coming from the cat that was on screen. But not just that, there were cat meows and growls for most of the movie and I didn't even believe those natural cat noises were coming from the cat. I'm no expert, but it should be fairly easy to use a computer to make it look like the cat is angry when growling noises are happening. Then when they decided to use that computer to create special effects with the cat jumping around the house, it was a complete joke. That cat was doing things that a cat would never even be capable of doing in real life and the CGI during those scenes was a joke. When I say I've seen talking animal movies from the 80's and 90's that did a better job with special effects and sound mixing/editing, I'm not even exaggerating. This is bad. It's really bad. And it boggles me looking at the cast and crew, who have all made great movies. What went wrong? How could a movie this bad be made by people who are this talented? I don't get it. I really don't.

To answer my first two questions, is this movie as bad as everyone has been saying and if so, does it reach the so bad it's good level? Does it deserve a 3.2 on IMDb, a 5 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and an F from Chris Stuckmann? Abso-freaking-lutely. And for the second part of that question, no it definitely doesn't reach the so bad it's good level. This is just bad in a cringe-worthy way. If this was made by amateur filmmakers who didn't know any better or by a group of filmmakers who were purposely trying to make a bad movie, like that of Sharknado, perhaps I could understand. But the fact that this was made by professional filmmakers who have made great things in the past and won Academy Awards for their work just makes this movie mind-boggling. And I haven't even discussed the plot specifics that proves this even further. But honestly I don't want to. Just think about my example in the beginning of the daughter watching her dad's press conference over 80 times in a row and think about something that level of stupid or worse happening in every single scene and you have nailed this movie. I don't even exaggerate. The actors themselves don't do a bad job, but the movie they're in is so dumb that it just seems like none of them really care.

Before I sign off, I do want to address that final question I had, because that's where this gets tricky. Is there any entertainment value for young kids? Well... uhhh... yes. I have to be honest. I went to a matinee showing on a Saturday afternoon and I had a theater full of kids whose parents were tricked into thinking this may be a fun kids movie and I used those kids as my test subjects. Did I laugh? No. Not even once. Did I think the movie was complete trash? Yes. But I also payed very close attention to the kids' reactions to each scene and there were several moments where all the kids burst out in laughter. There's an opening montage of cat videos that made them laugh. The first few moments when Kevin Spacey got turned into a cat made them laugh as he struggled to figure things out. When he peed on the rugs and in people's purposes, it made them laugh. When he attacked his former employee who was trying to sell his company, it made them laugh. I purposely walked out alongside a family of kids and as they left they were commenting on how they thought the movie was really funny. So how do I judge this? Do I say it's a horrible movie that you shouldn't even show your kids when I witnessed a lot of kids laughing throughout? I don't know. That might not be fair.

Personally I think there is a lot of potty humor in this with him peeing everywhere or them threatening to neuter him that I don't think is good kid's humor, but it's nowhere near as dirty as The Angry Birds Movie from earlier this year. However, to this idea of the kids enjoying it, I have a few thoughts. First is that I always say that the best kids movies are the ones that kids and adults can enjoy. While this may have entertainment value for a 5-year-old, this has zero entertainment value for adults. Being that, as an adult, you are the one paying for the tickets, I don't think this is worth venturing out to the theater to see. That can be expensive. If this shows up on Netflix in a year or so and you need something to distract your younger kids while you do a few chores around the house, perhaps this is a good option. But that aside, I still think there are better options for kids that they would enjoy more, especially if you are wanting to take your kids to the theaters right now. We have Finding Dory, The Secret Life of Pets, The BFG, and Ice Age: Collision Course in theaters right now. In the next few weeks we will add Pete's Dragon and Kubo and the Two Strings to the bunch. Please, please please, please do me a favor and choose one of those over Nine Lives. You'll be doing the whole family a favor.

In wrapping this review up, I honestly feel like I've only scratched the surface. Cat pun partially intended there. This movie is a CAT-astrophe. Pun there very much intended. This is one of those movies where I could go scene by scene and totally tear this whole thing apart. We start with a very unoriginal premise of a man getting trapped in the body of an animal in order to learn a life lesson. Whoever came up with that premise took it and hired someone to write a very bad script. Somehow that script passed the board room and a talented director and talented actors were either hired or conned into doing this project and every single one of them phoned it in. I don't know how excited they were to do this movie, but the final product would lead me to believe that they were all there for a quick paycheck only. Then after a really lazy, unfunny movie that relied heavily on toilet humor to attempt to be funny, this was passed onto post-production where they came up with special effects and sound editing that were more poorly done than plenty of 80's and 90's talking animal movies. This is a mess. But it's a mess that a lot of the kids in my theater enjoyed somehow. So maybe your kids will enjoy this, too? Even so, I don't recommend you seeing this, especially with all the options out right now. My grade for Nine Lives is a 3/10. Because it made the kids laugh. But even that feels generous.

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