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A nine-point review of 'Nine Lives'
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NINE LIVES 1 stars Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell, Christopher Walken, Cheryl Hines, Mark Consuelos; PG (thematic elements, language and some rude humor); in general release

1. Nine Lives is the story of how a wealthy New York developer named Tom Brand (played by Kevin Spacey) gets stuck inside the body of a cat. When we meet Brand, he is a selfish egomaniac who is more interested in debating the height of his new office tower than taking calls from his wife or getting birthday presents for his daughter. But while dealing with his new (literal) shortcomings, Brand presumably will obtain a deeper appreciation for the truly important things in life.

2. Nine Lives is directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, the man behind Will Smiths Men in Black films, as well as the Addams Family movies in the early 1990s. His quirky, fantasy-style hand is apparent in Nine Lives, which has the effect of elevating the films mediocre material, but it also leaves you wishing hed taken it further.

3. Brands wife, Lara, is played by Jennifer Garner, who also got some experience with the well-worn identity-crisis genre in 2004s 13 Going on 30. Combined with her appearance in Miracles from Heaven earlier this year, she seems to be cutting a path into family-friendly filmmaking.

4. Cheryl Hines plays Madison, Brands ex-wife and mother to his beleaguered son David (Robbie Amell). David works for Brands company and is trying to fend off his co-workers attempt to sell his fathers business out from under him. But Hines is one of the few highlights of the film, somehow channeling the angst of her divorce into a nonchalant wit that further underscores how much of a pill Brand is.

5. Christopher Walken plays Felix Perkins, the pet shop owner/cat whisperer who is behind the movie's mysterious goings-on. Walkens quirky, creepy deadpan delivery always makes things better, even if he doesnt necessarily make them good.

6. The thrust of Nine Lives is the comic potential of listening to Kevin Spaceys voiceover while watching an often-CGI rendered cat perform various pratfalls. It rarely delivers. But what makes the effect strangely compelling is the decision to add random cat screeches to Spaceys dialogue.

7. Nine Lives is meant to blend a positive message with some zany cat antics, but a complicated plot about Brands business bogs down the story so much that the little kids who would most appreciate the film will more likely be bored with it. (At least thats what I took from the small child who spent half the movie running around the theater laughing instead of watching anything on the screen.)

8. While the film is too sophisticated for young children, older audiences (both older children and adults) will likely dismiss it for being too juvenile. Sadly, Nine Lives lives in an unfortunate audience-free no mans land.

9. Nine Lives does harbor a sweet, family-friendly message, for what its worth. Its extremely predictable, though, and far too much of a clich to generate more than a mild reaction. With a little more from Sonnenfeld and Walken, Nine Lives might have been a fun sleeper; as is, its forgettable.

"Nine Lives" is rated PG for thematic elements, language and some rude humor; running time: 87 minutes.
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