The Nine Lives of Christmas
Christmas is that time of year when one thinks of cat based romance tales (or tails), and finally someone has made a film about the thoughts that every normal person has during the season. The Nine Lives of Christmas is a nice fun film that lets the charisma of the actors and lead cat overcome a weaker script. At points things come together a bit too easily, which lessens the impacts of the personal insecurities both Zachary and Marilee are feeling. But those objections are largely inconsequential as the film is charming enough to rise above that to deliver some holiday cheer.
The best part of The Nine Lives of Christmas is that it is pretty much a reverse Garfield movie. Instead of a sassy fat cat, Ambrose is a sweet friendly cat. Instead of a dorky cartoonist, Zachary Stone is a dreamy firefighter. Instead of a vet who constantly rejects his advances, Marilee White is a vet student whose life goals give her the excuses she needs to reject a social life. And the cat doesn’t talk. Before I knew anything about the film except for a rough plot outline, it was already the film from Hallmark’s 12 Movies of Christmas event that I was most interested in.
Zachary’s playboy firefighter lifestyle soon gets turned on its ear when he rescues an orange cat from a dog, the cat ends up adopting him, sneaking into his house and being too cute for nice guy Zachary to throw him out. The cat comes complete with a name tag, he’s named Ambrose. Ambrose’s owner has just died and has no relatives, thus providing the cat with a name but eliminating any prior owner conflict. As Zachary now has a cat to take care of, he starts getting pet supplies, despite insisting the arrangement is temporary until he finds a home for the cat. His indecision in the pet aisle prompts Marilee to come to his assistance, and thus begins a series of situations where the two characters keep running into each other, which is so coincidental they each comment that the other is stalking them.
Of course, things soon conspire to bring the couple together, because it’s a romance movie with a happy ending. Zachary’s evil girlfriend Blair hates Ambrose and is the daughter of Marilee’s boss, and gets Marilee fired because Marilee responded to her rudeness with sarcasm. Zachary later dumps Blair for lying to him and for tossing out Ambrose, and works to track down Marilee to apologize to her once he finds out she was fired. Marilee lies to her sister about already having a boyfriend to avoid another disaster setup, and uses Zachary as her template. She also finds Ambrose and returns him, giving the two chance to have a dinner date right before Marilee gets evicted after her cat is discovered.
Zachary restores houses as a side hobby to his firefighting, so he has an extra apartment attached to the house he’s currently fixing, and thus the pair is soon living together. They begin spending almost all their free time together, and it’s obvious to all their friends (Sarah and the firefighter trio of Ray, Mark, and Sam) that they are meant to be together, but it still takes the last half of the film before that happens.
Zachary is reluctant to have serious relationships because his parent’s marriage ended in divorce after years and years of arguments. The feelings he develops for Marilee confuse and frighten him, but Ray, Mark, and Sam are there to guide him through his impending growing up. Zachary’s reluctance doesn’t manifest itself very much in the film, the only instance is when he makes an excuse to avoid a party where Marilee’s sister is at, but it turns out to be because he needs to go to an event to promote a charity firefighter calender (the event turns out to be the same party, thus Marilee seeing him out in what is sort of a lie.) It would have been nice to see Zachary stumble more with sabotaging and trying to undo his own sabotaging, but I recognize it might be hard to keep you cheering for him if you see him doing something jerkish.
Marilee comes from parents who loved each other dearly, but they died when her sister was still young, so she had to put her college life on hold to raise her sister, and is just now getting back on track. Her insecurities manifest often, causing her to believe Zachary would never go for her, only model types. But she also paints who rooms of his house, connects appliances, sets up staging, and other handy things that obviously impress Zachary. There is also a weird bit involving mistletoe, where Marilee’s friend convinces her to put it up as a test to see if Zachary likes her. The conclusion seems to work, but is immediately excused as being just because of the mistletoe and the scene cuts away.
Despite Zachary and Marilee taking a while to realize they are in a romantic comedy and should get together, Ambrose and Queenie take a shine to each other right away. Ambrose is the more well-trained cat, doing tricks that allow him a personality, while Queenie is more of a cat who is always just sitting there to be talked to. The cat connection also expands to a thing Marilee mentions about mountain lions finding love, gets repeated so you know it will show up in the end (and it does!)
Overall, a fun cute film that will delight people who are the target audience even if the conclusion is obvious. Brandon Routh is never not charming, Kimberly Sustad fits well as a pretty but insecure vet, and Ambrose is just too cute. If you are expecting serious drama from your cat-themed Christmas romance made-for-tv movie, you will be disappointed. We need more cat romance movies, we can’t have the dog romance movies winning out! Someone do a reverse Heathcliff flick, stat!
Rated 7/10 (photog, professor, trouble, special ice cream, coworker, crazy decoration, paw stockings!)
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