Welcome to Why Is Kevin Spacey A Cat? Week, a celebration of the film Nine Lives, being released this Wednesday. A celebration and yet also a pondering because, really, why is Kevin Spacey a cat?


Originally I was only going to have one list of animal movies, but as I began compiling my favourites I realized that the non-talking animal movies deserved to have their own list entirely. Because it’s hard to compare something like Free Willy to Russell Madness, is what I’m trying to get at.

Here are some of my favourites.


Free Willy was another film in my family’s constant rotation. It was also my first introduction to Michael Jackson so for a long time if anyone ever mentioned him I always thought, “Oh yeah, the guy that did the Free Willy song.” I loved this film because at the beginning some kid smashes his hand into an entire cake and I always wanted to do that, because marine animals always enthralled me (to this day, if I could be any animal, it would be an otter), because even at the tender age of seven I recognized was a bad ass Lori Petty is, and because that end scene still gets me. WILL HE MAKE IT?! WILL HE?!

AIR BUD (1997)

Oh Buddy, what happened to your franchise? You went from an almost-plausible basketball storyline to you deciding to try out volleyball and now your puppies can talk and go to space. Come on now. The first film of the Air Bud franchise is pure and beautiful, a tale of two outcasts finding each other and connecting through pudding and a chill game of b-ball. It’s about equal opportunity, because there actually aren’t any rules that say a dog can’t play basketball; it’s about trying your hardest; it’s about believing in yourself; and it’s about how damn cute a dog looks wearing little sneakers. (Fun fact: Buddy, who played Buddy in the first two films, was also Comet on Full House. If Instagram had been around in the 90s, he would’ve been king.)


I watched this film recently during a Charles Grodin Marathon and hadn’t realized how dark it really is. There’s a serious threat of dog euthanization! And then I’m pretty sure a dog rips off a man's testicles! In a children’s movie! Damnnnnn. I also totally felt for Charles Grodin watching it as an adult. I mean, I’d be mad too if all of my shoes were drooled in and there was always mud everywhere. Sure, the montage to “Roll Over, Beethoven” makes all that damage seem all fun and games, but think about what it’s doing to the property values of that home. And I’m pretty sure this film wouldn’t be half as enjoyable, at any age, if Charles Grodin wasn’t starring in it. Nobody does outrage like him.

101 DALMATIANS (1996)

This live-action remake of the animated version is absolute tops. “What animated version?” is what you should be asking. Glenn Close as Cruella de Vil: life goals, hair goals. And is there a better couple than Jeff Daniel and Joely Richardson? Nope. I also appreciated how they made the premise slightly more realistic, because no dog could actually have 101 puppies. But a woman on a mission CAN kidnap 101 puppies and have them guarded by Hugh Laurie and Mark Williams! In the US, this film was marketed heavily with toys and the original puppies had names and I knew them all and had my favourite (Jewel and Dipstick were my faves, but Wizzer also gets a shout out for not buying into potty training conventions and peeing wherever he damn well pleased.)

FLIPPER (1996)

I’m going to be completely honest with you guys: I was into this movie for little Elijah Wood first, amazing dolphin second. He’s so angsty, so teenager-y, and clueless (proof: he’s mad he’s missing out on a Red Hot Chilli Peppers contest, ugh). But once he meets Flipper, he transforms (figuratively) into a happy, inquisitive youth with his only goal being to explore the wonders of the ocean with his new BFF, never to listen to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers again. And maybe also get a girlfriend. Also, I wish Paul Hogan was my uncle.


Non-talking animal films feel more realistic. You know, because animals don’t talk in real life. There’s an element of “ah shit, this could actually happen to me” and it’s less likely that the animals are doing things entirely outside of their natural skill-set. Case in point: the conniving antics of the animals in Cats & Dogs versus the fairly plausible basketball skills of Buddy in Air Bud.

A lot of non-talking animal films out there fall into a “saviour” sort of genre, like Mighty Joe Young or Operation Dumbo Drop, where humans make a connection with their animal friend and end up on a quest to save it and ultimately [dramatic pause] save themselves [cue emotional music]. Or they illustrate that almost indescribable connection we have with our pets, like in Marley And Me or My Dog Skip. (Or it could be that mother-f**king snakes have infiltrated a mother-f**king plane and Samuel L Jackson has HAD it with those mother f**king snakes on that mother f**king plane.)

Whether it's because the heyday of outrageous animal films of the 90s has passed or because I'm just old now and this movie genre is actually for children (but bless Keanu for making it for adults) our beloved pets and animals are still in films and still making an impact on the stories, like the cat in Inside Llewyn Davis or the dog from Sightseers. Studios might not want to take a risk on a completely animal-centric plot but they know what the people want: adorable animals, preferrably being held by Oscar Isaac.

The premise of Nine Lives is completely impossible without having the cat talk. We need to hear the character’s struggle as he learns what a wretched father/husband he’s been, and also when he’s getting washed as a cat. And we need to hear it all in Kevin Spacey’s voice. Otherwise, what’s the point? But what if, crazy idea, all those other Kevin Spacey movies out there were replaced with Kevin Spacey the cat instead of the actor? Adam will be diving down that dark rabbit hole tomorrow.