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Kevin Spacey adds life to Nine Lives
IT matters not that Kevin Spacey spends most of Nine Lives as the voice of a cat called Mr Fuzzypants. It matters even less that the film is a harmless bit of summer season fluff because Spacey, a multi-talented, award-winning actor who specialises in flawed characters with a dark side, could play an inanimate object - say, a manhole cover on a city street - and make it interesting.
In this family comedy, he stars as an egotistical billionaire who ends up trapped in the body of a furry feline where inevitably, he gets his comeuppance and learns a few life lessons. Best known these days as the slithery politician Frank Underwood in the Netflix series House of Cards, Spacey has a chameleon-like ability to take on - and absolutely own - a variety of roles, either behind the scenes or in front of an audience.
His sardonic humour and deadpan delivery works well here, although cat lovers - the target audience of Nine Lives, which features a variety of cats to complement Mr Fuzzypants - will consider the film, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and written by Daniel Antoniazzi and Ben Shiffrin, to be manna from heaven no matter who its human stars are.
Tom Brand (Spacey), a tycoon with a Trump-size ego and manner to match, believes in making a bigger splash than any of his business competitors. He skydives to the launch of one of his new buildings, barks orders at employees - including under-appreciated son David (Robbie Amell) - and is predictably derelict in his duties as husband to second wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) and dad to young daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman). Occasionally, first wife Madison (Cheryl Hines) drops in on Lara to gloat.
After he reluctantly agrees to buy a pet cat for Rebecca's 11th birthday, Tom finds his way to Purrkins, a store owned by the mysterious cat whisperer Felix Grant (Christopher Walken). Faster than you can say "Freaky Friday", Tom Brand becomes Tom Cat - or more accurately, Mr Fuzzypants. "I hate karma," he declares. Felix (what is it with the cat names?) gives him a week to reconnect with his family, or face the consequences.
Meanwhile, back at the office, a hostile takeover of Tom's company is being engineered by Ian Cox (Mark Consuelos), one of his top executives. Naturally, circumstances are such that he can either try to save his company, or salvage the failing relationship with his family. There's also a minor issue to contend with: if Tom dies, he's destined to be coughing up fur balls forever.
The situation facing the sixth richest man in Manhattan is such that his fate depends on him suffering untold humiliation (conducting business of another sort in a cat litter tray, for instance) and acting entirely out of character. "No matter how lonely you are, a cat is not a person," he says at the beginning of the film. More than a few cat owners will beg to differ.