Nine Lives (2016)

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As a committed aiurophile I was not prepared for the long-ish first sequence in Barry Sonnenfeld’s film. Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) is an irritating over-achiever billionaire building the US’s tallest skyscraper with the aid of his underappreciated son David (Robbie Amell). Meanwhile his beautiful wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) and chirpy daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman) are struggling for attention. He knows Rebecca wants a cat for her birthday, but he’s allergic and wants to get something else…. his suggestions at an employees’ meeting persuade him he’s wrong, he better get her one, so fetches up at Mr Purrkins’ Shop, an emporium of all things feline, including proprietor Christopher Walken. Aaahhhh!!!! Now you got me. Brand takes Mr Fuzzypants with him to meet his treacherous right-hand man Ian on the top of his tower, which is now in competition with another erection, and lightning strikes … Bingo! There’s a changing places scenario which is simply hilarious. As Brand malingers in a coma, Mr Purrkins’ plan to teach him how to be more human means he endures grotesque indignities in learning how to be a better-behaved cat as well as trying to figure out how to convince Rebecca who he really is. It takes a while to bed in, the boardroom shenanigans are a necessary subplot, but this is funny as hell, especially if your cat has ever tried to use a pen. Purr-fect!

The Parent Trap (1961)

The Parent Trap 1961 poster

The cheek of it  – coming here with your face! Erich Kaestner’s beloved book about separated twin girls wanting to reunite their divorced parents was inspired by a Hollywood movie, Three Smart Girls (Koster, 1936), so it was apposite that, following an uninspired British version, Walt Disney would gussy it up and make it with his wonderful child star, Hayley Mills.  Trading places is a staple of cinema and the joy in this is how Hayley is playing both twins, with (for the time) good effects and a double you don’t really notice until you’ve watched a few times. Writer/director David Swift is pretty faithful to the novel albeit the action is obviously transported to the US, both coasts, with Sharon living on a California ranch with pop (Brian Keith with a spectacular red dye job) and Susan in a Boston brahmin’s household with mom (Maureen O’Hara). (Or is it the other way round?) The stuff at summer camp is hilarious and the reaction of the house-swopped twin to pop’s new girlfriend (Joanna Barnes, acid as you like) is priceless.  Disney made some great and long live-action comedies throughout the Sixties and this is one of the best because it touches every child for obvious reasons:  every child wants their parents to like them. Mills has said, “I meet people all the time and have letters all the time, still to this day, from people who say that The Parent Trap was a very important film for them, that it was a very significant film in their life, that they found it a really empowering movie because the children take charge of the situation and bring it to a very satisfactory conclusion.” She also had a hit album from the movie because Disney forced Swift to turn it into a musical. O’Hara had problems with Disney over her billing but said of the film’s importance, “It is particularly important to women and girls who come from broken homes.  They relate to it so strongly because they had many of the same feelings and hopes for their own family to get back together.” It was of course remade for the Nineties by the redoubtable Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer and I write about that in my book about Meyers, Pathways of Desire, available at https://www.amazon.com/Pathways-Desire-Emotional-Architecture-Meyers-ebook/dp/B01BYFC4QW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1481117503&sr=1-1&keywords=elaine+lennon. Let’s Get Together!