You may have noticed a pattern over the years where big animated movies focus on bees and why we need them. We had the sincere Bee Movie in the 2000s, then the hilarious memes about Bee Movie in the 2010s. Well, get ready for the 2020s entry into this canon—the aptly named 10 Lives, which premiered last week at the Sundance Film Festival.
10 Lives comes from indie animator Christopher Jenkins, best known for his work on films like Aladdin and The Little Mermaid. His latest tells the tale of Beckett, a fat and spoiled house cat living the good life on the coast of England. Beckett spends his days in maximum leisure getting nonstop affection from his human, Rose. But when an accident costs the cocky kitty his ninth life, he’s given one final chance to make things right as ten different animals.
Through some zany reincarnations, Beckett fights to redeem his selfish ways and save Rose from danger. He even learns a thing or two about bees! It’s a feel-good family film with goofy humor for kids and emotional warmth for the grown-ups. Not bad for a little movie about a bratty cat. Let’s dig deeper into this quirky charmer.
Fat Cat Finds Purpose Through Madcap Misadventures
We first meet Beckett livin’ large as a blissfully spoiled house cat with heterochromia iridum (two different colored eyes). He spends his days in total relaxation, soaking up boundless affection from owner Rose in her quaint seaside cottage. But this fat cat’s sweet situation curdles when Rose befriends a hyper-focused bee researcher named Larry. With Rose distracted by a new partnership plotting to save the bees, Beckett becomes wildly jealous.
In an ill-advised scheme to eliminate his competition, Beckett sabotages Larry’s work, accidentally resulting in the loss of Beckett’s ninth life. Oops! This lands the portly pet in a wacky afterlife processing center that’s straight out of Terry Gilliam’s imagination. After some smooth talking, a vet named Grace takes pity and gives Beckett a cosmic second chance: Ten more lives on Earth across ten different animal forms to prove he can be selfless.
What follows is a hilarious parade of zany reincarnations as Beckett repeatedly dies and revives in all sorts of unpleasant creatures trying to protect Rose. See, while she’s occupied with her bees, Rose has accidentally stirred up trouble with an evil scientist named Professor Craven. He plans on exterminating bees to take over the market with his own robot bees! As a rat, a roach, and more, Beckett scrambles to save his beloved owner while also bettering himself.
It’s a winding path involving wacky side characters like Grace, Larry, Craven’s oafish henchmen, and even a cameo from Zayn Malik. But through screwball misadventures across multiple animal alter egos, Beckett inches towards redemption through selflessness, learning to live for love instead of laziness.
Visuals Capture Coastal Charm
As an indie production, 10 Lives can’t compete with the slick polish of animation titans like Disney or Pixar. Yet the film still brings its coastal English setting to cheerful life through bright colors and crisp character designs. Backdrops of the Dorset seaside are bathed in warm sunlight, from Rose’s quirky cottage to neighboring houses and shops.
The standout visual element is Beckett himself. The tubby tabby transitions into different creatures, but retains his heterochromatic eyes in signature ice blue and amber orange. These dynamic peepers swell and shrink to hilariously reflect Beckett’s emotions, from shock to irritation to sheepishness. No matter the wacky predicament, one glimpse of his trademark eyes roots us in experiencing events through Beckett’s viewpoint.
Seeing those eyes gaze out from a possum’s face or a horse’s long snout adds to the absurd laughs. That consistency across random animal vessels draws us closer to goofy, greedy Beckett while allowing plenty of fun visual variety as he bumbles through a menagerie of second chances. It’s a clever way to keep the story anchored while letting the animators’ imaginations run delightfully wild.
So while 10 Lives doesn’t dazzle the eyes like a Pixar epic, its sunny seaside joy and emotively kooky lead make the smaller scale animation soar. You can’t help but smile at this visual odyssey following one fat cat from pampered pet to sewer rat and beyond, all through the windows of his telltale eyes.
Standout Voice Work Brings Characters to Life
Leading the spirited voice cast is Mo Gilligan, a British comedian making his voice acting debut as Beckett. Gilligan captures the brazen entitlement of a pampered pet, leaning into bratty complaints and feline mannerisms. Yet as Beckett evolves, Gilligan layers in subtle vulnerability, arrogance giving way to humility in all the right spots.
Equally impressive is Simone Ashley in her follow-up to Bridgerton fame. As Beckett’s doting owner Rose, Ashley radiates warmth and passion. She especially shines during musical interludes, including a feel-good duet with Zayn Malik. Speaking of Malik, the former boybander flaunts his vocal range across various supporting roles, even belting a hilarious cockroach rock ballad.
But it’s Bill Nighy who steals scenes as the nefarious Professor Craven, purring smug threats in true Bond villain fashion. Nighy seems to relish each ridiculous line, making Craven’s half-baked schemes somehow believable through sheer theatrical commitment.
The stellar voice cast enriches Jenkins’ simple story, finding layers of heart and humor in every oddball character. When the emotional stakes peak toward the end, Gilligan and Ashley’s authentic connection as quirky pet and loving owner shines through to bring a tear to the eye. Their acting chemistry helps ground the zany premise, making the audience truly invest in one selfish cat’s bumpy road to redemption across multiple furry forms.
Universal Messages in a Zany Package
At its heart, 10 Lives embraces themes with timeless resonance about relationships between pets and their humans. We witness the depth of connection through Rose’s eyes as she provides Beckett a loving home, contrasted by Beckett’s initial apathy and later desperate attempts to repay her kindness. Their bond navigates the endearing two-way street of affection we share with our furry friends.
The story tracks Beckett’s gradual transformation from selfish feline concerned only with his own comfort to someone who finds purpose in selflessly protecting his beloved owner. We see how living for someone else can be the most fulfilling choice over chasing shallow highs. That nuanced character arc unfolds through totally absurd events, using wacky humor to entertain young audiences while leaving them with simple yet meaningful takeaways on morality.
Of course, the film holds special appeal for animal enthusiasts, especially crazy cat people. Watching this chubby kitty tumble through oddly relatable misadventures while trying to make things right will have viewers laughing and shedding tears in equal measure. Yet Jenkins crafts the storytelling broadly enough that anyone can find resonance in this unique exploration of bonds between pets and humans.
10 Lives coats gentle life lessons in vibrant absurdity, translating somber ideas about mortality and morality into breezy bites that children can easily digest. Led by a spoiled feline who finally discovers what matters, the movie celebrates quirky imagination while championing selfless connection in the end. For families seeking a fun film with just a hint of feeling, this one hits all the right notes.
A Quirky Charmer That Hits the Spot
At the end of the day, 10 Lives doesn’t break new ground when it comes to animated family films. The story beats of a selfish character finding purpose through hijinks have been done before, and the animation lacks big studio polish. Yet Christopher Jenkins infuses the modest production with abundant heart and humanity. After years animating for Disney and others, he knows how to craft a comforting fable that resonates.
What makes 10 Lives stand out is its weirdness, from gross-out gags to absurd reincarnation humor. Jenkins leans into quirky details, flawing his fat feline protagonist with refreshing honesty. The result feels more poignant for not being perfect. Even when reaching for profound meaning, the movie retains a spark of eccentricity through to the uplifting finale.
For parents fatigued by slick studio formulas, 10 Lives offers charming proof that humble indies can also deliver joy. Kids will giggle at the silly animals while taking in lessons on selflessness and connection. There’s comfort in familiarity as Jenkins expertly hits familiar beats, but also lively wit as he squeezes in delightful oddities.
At Sundance and beyond, 10 Lives serves as a harmonious melding of madcap imagination and meaningful storytelling. It entertains through outrageous scenarios while keeping tender truths at its heart. What more could you ask for in a family film? Jenkins captures the simple pleasure of embracing life’s strange detours—an ethos exemplified by one very zany cat.
10 Lives takes a familiar formula of an egotistical character finding redemption and gives it a blithely bonkers twist through the story of a spoiled cat's karmic comeuppance. While far from revolutionary, Christopher Jenkins' film brims with ample charisma and charm. Buoyed by lively animation and a stellar comedic voice cast, this breezy, kind-hearted romp will leave families feline fine.
- Charming feel-good story with uplifting themes
- Hilarious lead voice performance by Mo Gilligan
- Beautiful seaside animation and visuals
- Catchy musical numbers
- Strong supporting voice cast (Simone Ashley, Bill Nighy, etc.)
- Funny animal reincarnation antics
- Familiar plot feels derivative at times
- Supporting villains/plot underdeveloped
- Gross-out humor misses the mark for kids
- Modest indie animation can't match big studios