Tom Brand isn't much of a dad, or husband for that matter. I mean, he loves his family way down deep. But digging down to that level would likely require a contractor's license and a full-sized excavator or two.
Tom is a busy man. A driven man. He's great at building railroads, airlines and skyscrapers. But relationships? Not so much.
That's not to say that there aren't those who openly love him. He has an adult son from a previous marriage, David, who works diligently in his dad's company to try and make him proud. He has a beautiful wife, Lara, who struggles to keep their marriage going. And his 11-year-old daughter, Rebecca, nearly worships the man. Though, frankly, she spends more time watching him on TV or playing back old family videos of their brief moments together than actually connecting with her father in person.
If only there was a way to take Tom by the scruff of the neck and shake him up. Some way to show him all he has, or rather all he could have if he just popped his head up out of blueprints and corporate meetings.
Of course, that would likely take something crazy, something completely out there. It would require some nutty, almost magical occurrence—something like you might have seen in a goofy kid's movie from way back when. You know, like when a guy has his consciousness transferred into a family pet or something. Then he'd be stuck in his own house and really get a kitty-litter-level eyeful of all he's been missing out on.
But what are the odds of that happening?
In the course of buying a cat as a birthday present for Rebecca, Tom meets Perkins, a "cat whisperer" shop owner who pops up now and again and repeatedly reiterates the movie's simple theme. "Your dad loves you," he tells the young daughter. "But sometimes it not enough to say you love someone. You have to show it."
Felix and this flick's events make it clear that the choices we make are important, and if we don't make the right ones we could lose everything that we should truly value. Tom eventually sees the light and puts his life on the line to save a loved one.
The "spirit transference" of Tom into his cat is never really explained, though it may be loosely connected to the concept of reincarnation. (It's foreshadowed by a YouTube clip of a woman saying how she believed her son had "come back" as a cat.) Only in this case, Tom isn't deceased, but in a coma. Later, we realize that Perkins cares for a number of cats possessed by human spirits.
[Spoiler Warning] When the Tom-possessed kitty loses one of its nine lives, Tom's spirit returns to his human body.
When the film begins, Tom is locked in a contest to build the tallest building in North America, and a "mine is bigger than yours" joke is quipped. There's a point where Tom believes that his wife may be cheating on him with another man (which turns out to be untrue).
Jokes are tossed around about "fixing" the cat version of Tom.
As a human, Tom falls from the top of a very tall building. He survives through a tangle of fortuitous circumstances, but the thumping and crashing fall is severe enough to put him in a coma. Later, as a cat, Tom falls from that same building, but his cat host does not survive.
Lara thumps her head on a staircase while chasing the cat. A man is hit by a car (we don't see the impact).
Crude or Profane Language
On the heels of several outbursts of "Jeez", Tom blurts out a full misuse of Jesus' name. There are a couple exclamations of the word "d--n" in the mix along with an unfinished "son of a ..." and giggling comments about a cat's "poopy box."
Drug and Alcohol Content
We meet Tom's ex-wife, Madison, who is always drinking martinis or large glasses of Scotch. Lara imbibes a bit of booze, too, as do several corporate board members. Even the cat version of Tom gets in on the boozy action: The animal manages to pop the cork on a decanter of Scotch and ends up staggeringly drunk.
Other Negative Elements
Cat urine and other toilet-focused gags are sprinkled throughout the movie. Ian makes backstabbing choices to undermine his boss, including destroying vital business records. Tom fiddles around with his cell phone, essentially texting while speeding through city traffic. A young girl texts out a hurtful picture to a large group of friends.
Every dad—and really, every Tabby stripe of parent or spouse—can sometimes use a little reminder that the time you spend at your job or career isn't the most important part of the day. Sure, bringing home the Purina Chow is essential, but if you do so and ignore the loved ones around you, then it's all for naught. It's important to be there for your family. To cheer at school events and play games, to lend a shoulder to cry on or wrap a comforting arm around someone else's shoulder, those are the things most precious and most warmly remembered.
That's the solid, age old lesson that this anthropomorphic, celebrity-voiced pet pic has tucked away in its 90 minutes of furry silliness.
Granted, watching a CGI enlivened cat get drunk on 50-year-old Scotch and make a mess on a rug isn't the most creative or hold-your-side funny way to communicate that truth. But it's all part of the sweet-and-sour cinematic catnip mix of Nine Lives.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Kevin Spacey as Tom Brand; Jennifer Garner as Lara Brand; Malina Weissman as Rebecca Brand; Christopher Walken as Felix Perkins; Robbie Amell as David Brand; Mark Consuelos as Ian Cox; Cheryl Hines as Madison Camden
August 5, 2016