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Nine Lives

A self-absorbed, workaholic real estate mogul learns an overdue lesson in family priorities while trapped inside the body of his 11-year-old daughter's cat in Barry Sonnenfeld's mangy caper. Nine Lives possesses all of the charm of a tray of pungent kitty litter that hasn't been changed for weeks. The sickly stench of cloying sentiment wafts from every misguided frame, and five screenwriters clumsily mash together subplots in order to engineer a preposterous, yet heart-warming, finale that sticks in the throat like a giant hairball. It's anything but the cat's whiskers, even with a tongue-in-cheek supporting performance from Christopher Walken as a mystical pet shop owner, who sets the tomcatfoolery in motion. Laughs are mostly intentional but scarce, with an occasional zinging one-liner to lift the gloom like when the body-swapped businessman paws forlornly at a touchscreen tablet and his inner monologue deadpans, "Ironically I could really use a mouse right now". Scenes of real cats performing stunts are cute, although video-sharing websites are cluttered with bona fide demonstrations of daredevil animal magic that don't require a costly cinema ticket. Inevitably, Sonnenfeld is forced to rely on a computer-generated moggie for some of the slapstick set pieces and his digital doppelganger isn't remotely realistic. Business tycoon Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) is poised to open the tallest skyscraper in the northern hemisphere - a monolith of glass and steel dwarfed only by his overinflated ego. Tom's unerring dedication to his job drives a wedge between the mogul and his family: long-suffering wife Lara (Jennifer Garner), son David (Robbie Amell), who works alongside his old man, and young daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman). For Rebecca's birthday present, Tom begrudgingly agrees to buy a cat and he hurries into Purrkins Pet Shop run by the enigmatic Felix Perkins (Walken). On his way home with a scrawny Siberian named My Fuzzypants, Tom is involved in an accident and his consciousness is magically transferred into the cat. Perkins reveals that Tom has a few days to reconcile with his family in his four-legged form or he must remain as a cat for the rest of his nine lives. "If this is what it takes to become human, I will become the best cat that ever lived," vows the businessman as he rebuilds bridges with his loved ones and faces a boardroom coup orchestrated by his ambitious underling (Mark Consuelos). Nine Lives is a supernatural yarn in the vein of Freaky Friday and Big, without the charm or emotional wallop of those enduring family favourites. Spacey's character is comatose for the majority of the film, so he's spared some of the indignities suffered by Garner and Amell. There's a similar lack of inertia to the narrative, which should compel adults to enjoy a sneaky cat nap in the dark. Me-ouch!