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Nine Lives (2016)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/1/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/31/2016

In 1959, Disney released The Shaggy Dog, the story of a teenaged boy who is turned into a dog. In 1976, Disney brought us the sequel, The Shaggy D.A. (because kids love movies about municipal legal officials), in which the now grown man becomes a dog. In 2006, Disney returned with The Shaggy Dog, a new version of the where a new man becomes a dog. While this list? To show that the dogs have clearly had their day and that we've seen plenty of movies where people become dogs. Isn't it about time for another animal to be in the spotlight? How about a cat? Wouldn't that be a nice change of pace? That's what we get with Nine Lives.

Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) is a truly a captain of industry. He oversees a diverse company called Firebrand, and he never misses an opportunity to create a spectacle and his latest venture is an attempt to build the tallest skyscraper in New York City. All of this means that Tom doesn't pay much attention to his wife, Lara (Jennifer Garner), his young daughter, Rebecca (Malina Weissman), or his grown son, David (Robbie Amell), who works for him. Rebecca has been begging for a cat for her birthday, and despite his dislike for these animals, Tom decides to give in and get one. He finds himself at an odd pet shop, where he meets the odd Mr. Perkins (Christopher Walken), who sells him a cat. Following a confrontation with scheming subordinate Ian (Mark Consuelos), Tom awakens to find himself in the body of the cat, while his body lies in a coma. In this feline form, Tom is able to observe Lara and Rebecca, but is unable to communicate with them. This will give him a chance to see how much they mean to him.

Here are two facts about Nine Lives. The film was released in August, 2016, as a late summer entry into some 2200 theaters. The film was featured as part of a multiple-choice question on the NPR show Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me and not only did the contestant get it wrong, the show's participants didn't think that the movie was real. So, that may illustrate how this family film got lost in the shuffle of sequels and remakes which defined the summer of 2016. However, given the talent involved with movie, you would think that people would have noticed it. First and foremost, we have Kevin Spacey starring in not only a comedy, but a comedy for families and kids. Add to this Jennifer Garner, Christopher Walken, and Cheryl Hines. Behind the camera, we have visionary director Barry Sonnenfeld, who brought us Men in Black and Get Shorty.

The problem may have been that the trailer made the movie look as if it was hitting every cliche possible...and it does. We have an power-hungry man who neglects his family who is forced into a comeuppance through something magical. Instead of the apparently tried-and-true dog formula, we have a man who is transformed into a cat. From there, we get the predictable gags in which the cat attempts to communicate with the family, is treated to indignities, and then SPOILER ALERT! learns that family is just as important, if not more important, than work. Added to this is the wrinkle that, through the magic of CG, the cat can do all sorts of human-like behaviors, like attempting to write or pouring himself a drink. The result is a film which mixes what is, in actuality, a pretty heavy idea with some pretty silly antics and a slew of hackneyed ideas.

Parents may have been scared off by the presence of Spacey and Walken, but we must remember that this is meant to be a movie for kids and families. Would Nine Lives work for those audiences? Probably. I can see kids getting a kick out of the cats antics, and, being kids, they most likely wouldn't know how unoriginal the story is. The movie moves along at a nice pace and a younger audience would be drawn to the blend of some mild action sequences and a cat mugging for the camera. It didn't do much for me, but Nine Lives would probably thrill a nine-year old.

Nine Lives makes a fuss over cat food on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 38 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good here and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture shows a nice amount of detail and the depth is notable. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and at an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The rooftop scene delivers notable surround sound and subwoofer effects. There are moments in the apartment which bring us impressive stereo effects which illustrate sounds occurring off-camera.

The Nine Lives Blu-ray Disc doesn't contain many extra features. We begin with "Letting the Cat out of the Bag: The Making of Nine Lives" (12 minutes) is a somewhat brief featurette which tries to cram in as much as possible, as it looks at the cast, the costume, the look of the film, the sets, and the visual effects. Through, interviews, on-set footage, and clips, the piece is a "jack of all trades" of extras. "Russian For Herding Cats" (14 minutes) examines the cats used in the film, as we get interviews with the cat trainers and then get a look at the visual effects used to create the cat. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long