Holiday Watch: The Nine Lives of Christmas

9livesxmas 800As you might expect from the title, The Nine Lives of Christmas uses cats as it’s plot device. In this case, a pair of felines serve as…ahem, CATalysts (sorry)…to bring our two future happily-ever-afters together.

Our first four-legged meddler is Ambrose, an orange tabby who insinuates himself into the life of Zachary Stone (Brandon Routh), a firefighter, house flipper, and committed commitment-phobe. He keeps his toxic, mean girl, model girlfriend Blair (Chelsea Hobbs) at arms length, and is determined to find someone to take Ambrose off his hands ASAP.

Queenie, a female calico, is the sanctuary guest of Marilee White (Kimberley Sustad), a gifted veterinary student who makes ends meet by working at a pet store — a pet store owned by Blair’s family. This also means she lives on the edge of eviction not just because of retail-level pay, but because her landlady as a strict no-pets policy.

After a series of events, including: grocery shopping, a talk at a restaurant between Zachary and Marilee, Blair having her father fire Marilee, Ambrose going missing until found by Marilee and returned to Zachary, and Marilee being evicted because of Queenie, Marilee finds herself invited to stay with Zachary at his house.

With finals done, and without a job, Marilee helps improve Zachary’s property and gradually makes herself part of the household. There’s an inevitable misunderstanding, born of Marilee’s insecurity and Zachary’s fear of commitment, that results in Marilee leaving. Undeterred, Zachary arrives in a fire engine to sweep her off her feet (well, climb up to meet him…but it’s sort of more romantic than it sounds).

The Nine Lives of Christmas suffers from what may be my biggest peeve of some Christmas movies: it really has little-to-no dependence on this being a Christmas movie. If it were centered around Arbor Day, it would have worked just as well. Obviously I’m going to deduct for that, which is a shame since this is a good “holiday” romance otherwise.

I like especially that Zachary knows that Blair is just the latest in a string of temp girlfriends. None of this settling for the one who pays attention to me (at least when they aren’t paying attention to themselves) nonsense that is all too common in Hallmark holiday fare. Being an unattached workaholic, Marilee just goes along (sorry, again, but someone had to say it), usually at the whim of her sister — who means well, but is a little/a lot pushy for my taste.

Side note: That scene where Marilee is asleep in class, then awakened by the teacher only to give the right answer before being told to go back to sleep — that actually happened to me (yeah, I was one of those students).

I really liked that we were given time to see the couple as a “sort of” couple during the home renovation without a lot of artificial drama — save for Zachary’s terror over commitment. Thank goodness his captain (who saved 14-year-old-Zach from a fire years ago), played by Gregory Harrison, knew how to talk sense to the man. They had a good surrogate father/son relationship. Speaking of relationships, I like the one Marilee had with Sarah, a fellow student. It was reminiscent of the “my person” relationship between Meredeth and Cristina on the TV show Grey’s Anatomy. While recognizable, it was more comfortable than cliche.

Unlike most movies, the paucity of a denouement doesn’t hurt this story. Because of the bonding time we’ve spent with Marilee and Zachary, there was no need to gild the lily. It felt like it ended at about the right place, when the story was done.

Overall, this is an enjoyable movie — not exceptional, but very watchable. Points off for it being generically seasonal. Even the cats played their parts well in supporting the leads. If you like your holiday romance a little less dramatically formula, this might be the movie for you.

4 of 5 

For more movies, go to the list at: Watching the Holiday Movies

Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

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