Nine Lives (2016)

I’d like to pitch you all a film about a workaholic father who neglects his family, who has a whimsical, eye-opening curse cast upon him by Christopher Walken. This curse helps our businessman protagonist understand just how important family is, and the dangers of neglecting close friends and loved ones. Obsessed with designing buildings, the character will witness first-hand how he is bound to lose the people he loves if he continues on his frivolous path chasing monetary reward and corporate success. He sees evidence of a dark future – with his wife leaving him, his kids hating him, and even his own untimely death. When he notices his own son following in his footsteps, he is finally driven to action. He sacrifices everything to ensure his children don’t make the same mistakes he did, killing himself in the process. Having learned his lesson and passed the test, Christopher Walken rewinds the clock and gives our hero a second chance at living life. Now does that sound familiar? Yes? Oh, well, that’s because the film I’m referring to already exists. It’s the sequel to Adam Sandler’s 2006 comedy film ClickNine Lives (2016).

“Nine Lives” shall be hereafter referred to as “Click 2” for the duration of this article.

It’s always disappointing when a sequel is just a cheap rehash of its predecessor.  Click 2 is essentially an identical, beat-for-beat remake of the first instalment, with Walken’s ‘angel of death’ character moving on to help another arrogant schlub, this time by posing as a ‘cat whisperer.’ Now I know a lot of people don’t like Adam Sandler’s work these days, and for the most part I agree; but I’ve always enjoyed Click – it’s a well-told (albeit simple and cliche) story with a great cast (including Christopher Walken, Kate Beckinsale, David Hasslelhoff and Henry Winkler) who deliver some really funny performances. It’s also a movie with competent execution and a lot of heart. The sequel, on the other hand, is a rushed, slapped together mess with terrible effects and phoned-in performances all round.

In Spacey’s case, it’s more of a ‘slept-in’ performance. This image sums up the majority of his screentime.

Let’s take a moment to consider the story similarities between the two films. First of all, Adam Sandler plays a workaholic architect in Click, desperately trying to land the big account in order to become partner at his firm. In Click 2, Kevin Spacey plays Tom Brand; an eccentric, egotistical billionaire who is also obsessed with making buildings – he wants to have the tallest skyscraper in the world…. just so he can put his company’s name on it. So great, both characters are ignoring their families in favor of designing buildings, but Adam Sandler’s motivation seems a little more grounded and, surprisingly, rational. Both characters begin to drift away from their loved ones (a wife,  older son, and younger daughter in both cases) in order to achieve their goals. Sandler is late for his son’s swim meet because he was working, while Spacey just forgets his daughter’s birthday altogether.

Both characters then seek out Christopher Walken’s help for various reasons. Sandler finds him in Bed, Bath and Beyond while he’s looking for a universal remote control for his television. Spacey meets Walken in a pet store, after an excruciatingly unfunny boardroom scene where his employees pitch him gift ideas for his daughter’s birthday. Walken gives both men what they want, with a slight twist of what they need. Adam Sandler’s remote control allows him to fast forward through life so he can focus on work. Spacey gets a cat for his daughter, only to be have his soul trapped inside the cat following a lightning storm that renders his body inactive, comatose.

The more eccentric Chris Walken is always the better one.

Throughout the second act of both films, the main characters see first-hand how their misplaced priorities are putting their relationships at risk. In Click, Sandler fast-fowards uncontrollably into the future, where he’s successful in his career, but also divorced and alone. In Click 2, Spacey-the-cat discovers that his wife has been meeting with realtors behind his back. She’s looking into moving away, to leaving him forever. Finally, at the end of each film, both Sandler and Spacey’s sons are about to make a huge mistake – following in their father’s footsteps. The next generation is putting business first and ignoring family, exactly like their dads did. In both movies, the father character sacrifices everything to save their children at this integral point. Click executes this with surprisingly powerful emotion and tenderness, when a hospitalized Adam Sandler rips off his life support and runs to his son to tell him family comes first, literally dying to share the message. Similarly, in Click 2, Kevin Spacey’s ‘Mr. Fuzzypants’ the cat jumps off a building with son, who turns out to be wearing a parachute and was never in any danger to begin with. The son lands safely and saves the family business, but the cat dies. So in Click 2, the cat’s sacrifice was for nothing and I’m not really clear on what the lesson is. The son took drastic measures to prevent someone else from saving the company – glorifying the preservation of corporation. I thought this was about family?

It’s obvious that Nine Lives is merely a cheap rip-off of Click – not that the first film was too original to begin with. Click may be simple, but it was executed professionally and had a lot of heart. Even the notoriously lazy Adam Sandler donned a fat suit and likely sat through hours in a make-up chair on the set of the first film, going above and beyond his usual ‘make a movie while on vacation’ routine. Click 2 has none of that competence.

Congratulations, Kevin Spacey and co – this man has outdone you.

Aside from the opening sequences, the majority of the movie features a crappy-looking cgi cat flopping around in unbelievable ways, with Kevin Spacey’s annoyed voice-over chiming in every few minutes. It sounds like Spacey worked on the film for a day at most, just rhymed off his lines in a sound booth and then went home to count his money. Once he’s in the cat body he barely speaks, making for a lot of dead silence over terribly unfunny cgi cat slapstick. Even the spoken jokes are just awful – like when Spacey’s wife, played by Jennifer Garner, suggests her erratic new cat may need an MRI – or a ‘Cat Scan.’

Somehow, these secretaries watch a sequence that took place earlier in the film. That is, footage from Nine Lives appears inside Click 2. How meta.

The majority of Nine Lives features a fake-looking cat trying to communicate his non-catness to his family, to let them know who he is. The people and situations in the film are so beyond stupid that they could never be considered funny. When the cat rides on people’s backs and jumps in people’s purses in order to sneak around, no one ever feels him or notices the extra weight they are carrying. He sneaks past people and in broad daylight and no one ever turns their head, as if the film denies peripheral vision exists. Poorly constructed and thrown together, Nine Lives tries way too hard to be funny, while at the same time never putting in enough effort. The characters have weak motives, and the ending makes no sense. It’s also surprisingly dark, considering having a cute kitten die in a children’s movie is a pretty bleak way to go. Thank goodness we get to end with a deus ex machina coda, in which Kevin Spacey returns to the pet store. Christopher Walken reveals the cat who fell off the highest tower in the world is still alive – that it only lost one of its nine lives in the jump. Sigh…

Screw off, movie!

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