There are few 2016 movie releases that have drawn the same sort of buzz as Nine Lives, also known as “the Kevin Spacey trapped in the body of a cat movie.” The project has been a subject of much confusion ever since it was first announced, due mostly to its plot that seems better suited to a 1980s movie, as well as the great likelihood of a third-act turn revealing the whole thing as a schmaltzy fable about a dad learning to appreciate his family.
Talk about the film hasn’t gotten much better through a pair of trailers, nor a series of TV commercials featuring some pretty painful puns. With the release set for this Friday, the film is not being screened for critics ahead of its release, which is not a good sign for most films, let alone one about a man who turns into a cat. At any rate, some viewers may have been surprised to see a TV commercial for the film quoting what sounds like lavish critical praise.
The Catfington Post (“Totally Paw-Some”). Vanity Fur (“Purr-fection”). Meowsweek (“Hiss-Sterical”). Yes, the film’s marketing department has inserted fake critical praise in which both the quotes themselves and the names of the publications are not only fictitious, but they’re all painful cat puns. It could have worse, the ads could have given fake cat names to actual critics, like Me.Ow. Scott of the New York Times or Ty Purr of the Boston Globe. There is precedent for this, believe it or not — commercials for the 2010 comedy Vampires Suck attributed bogus critical praise to “Hugh Jass,” “Ivana Tinkle” and “Oliver Klozoffe,” which compounded the crime by stealing two-decade-old jokes from The Simpsons.
Is there any possibility that Nine Lives might not be terrible? The film has a lot of very talented people associated with it. Spacey is a multiple Oscar winner. Christopher Walken is in it too, as are Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell, and Cheryl Hines. Its director, Barry Sonnenfeld, made all three Men in Black movies as well as one of the best comedies of the last 25 years, Get Shorty. There’s a chance the whole thing is way more subversive than the ads and trailers make it look.
But on the other hand? It’s a comedy, heavily dependent on cat puns, with five credited screenwriters, starring Kevin Spacey as a business tycoon trapped in the body of a cat.
Nine Lives will be released Friday, August 5, 2016.