On the ninth life of Christmas, my true love gave to meeee….

I’m sure that when Brandon Routh was posing for multiple magazine covers in his Superman costume in 2006, he thought it would be at least a couple more decades before he joined the land of made-for-cable movies. So I hope it doesn’t sound like an insult when I say that he’s kind of made for this thing. I mean, he could live inside of the opening scene of The Nine Lives of Christmas, in which he is Zach, a perfect specimen of a firefighter who nonetheless feels awkward posing for the annual charity holiday calendar. So humble! So hot!

Except, maybe Zach’s not so humble after all. We get a little twist with this character, who, in one way, is a noble man of the people, saving lives and whatnot, but who also is kind of annoying, as he resists settling into any sort of adult life by 1) dating models he knows he has no future with, and 2) living only in houses that he’s fixing up to sell for profit before moving on to the next one. Will a lovely lady who can repair his damage come along in time for Christmas?

Our Lady of Confirmed Bachelor Saving goes by the name of Marilee (say it out loud) White (yes, she is). We meet her as she’s falling asleep in veterinary school, which she’s paying her way through by working at a pet store after putting off her education for years to take care of her little sister following the death of their parents. So selfless! So sweet! But her friends and family are concerned that she’s working too hard and needs to get out and, you know, meet a guy like a NORMAL WOMAN GEEEEZ, even though she insists she’s not interested in addressing her love life until she’s done with school. Now we have two leads who are both resistant to the idea of a romantic relationship. How’s that gonna go?

This is, of course, where the cat comes in.

Ambrose is a scrappy orange kitty with a newly dead owner who’s got his eye on Zach’s house to make his new home. He’s not going to take no for an answer, even when Zach protests out loud to him that a cat is just too big of a commitment, can’t he understand?? Ambrose just rolls over to show his tummy, because he doesn’t give a fuck.

Animal-lover Marilee also has a cat, a fluffy gray one named Queenie that she must keep hidden from her cranky landlord. (Here’s where we start anticipating not just a human romance, but a cat romance, because thinking of cats and dogs as if they are human is just The American Way.)

And so the first moment of contact between our leads happens in the cat food aisle. The romance! The fantasy! The embarrassment when Zach notices that all Marilee has in her cart is a giant tub of mint chocolate chip! This is surely a humiliation she will never recover from… or will she??


Now, our man Zach’s model girlfriend, Blair, is sorta terrible. But we know she’s really truly EVIL when she wants to get rid of Ambrose just as Zach is starting to warm to the little guy. Turns out Blair’s father owns the pet store where Marilee works and where Blair figures they can dump Ambrose. During the ensuing interaction, Marilee displeases Blair so much that she convinces her dad to fire her. NICE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, BLAIR AND BLAIR’S DAD.

Zach, feeling guilty, then tries to save Marilee from getting evicted when her landlord inevitably discovers her secret cat, pulling out his fireman badge (???) and interrogating the landlord about fire codes. Though his tactics don’t work, of course any woman would be thrilled to see a beautiful man attempting to abuse his power to be her knight in shining armor. And now Marilee is jobless and homeless kind of because of him… so Zach insists she stay in his fixer-upper house with him until she gets back on her feet. OoooooOOOOOOoooooh.

And thank god she does move in with him, because until now this “Christmas” movie has actually been woefully short on any sort of Christmas theme. But now! There’s a tree to be bought! There are Christmas memories to be shared while decorating it! And Marilee, previously only mooning over Zach’s “brown eyes,” (yep, those are for sure his only lust-worthy attributes) starts to see the wounded, sensitive dude who hasn’t let go of his angry childhood. And Zach starts to admire her because she… paints the living room.

I wish I was making that part up, but as if in a Key & Peele sketch, these two square-jawed white people bond over one of them mixing two different white paints to paint the living room the perfect shade of warm, inviting white. Marilee’s paint-mixing skills are EASILY the lamest hidden rom-com talent of all time, but I guess the Paint Whisperer was what Zach was waiting for all along. He soon gives in to his desire and kisses her under the mistletoe (admittedly, a pretty hot kiss), but then retreats again like the nonsense, sad-man,  love-just-ain’t-for-me goof that he is.

As is so often the case, it’s only when he nearly loses Marilee that Zach gets his shit together. After she invites him to a fancy Christmas party her sister is going to, and he panics and says he has to work, she ends up seeing him at THE SAME PARTY with a beautiful blonde. Soon it becomes clear that he was just promoting the fireman calendar we’ve all forgotten about by now, but first we get a refreshing moment of heroine self-awareness on Marilee’s part as she vent-cries to a friend: “I’m not even dating him; he doesn’t owe me anything.” True! But he totally does love you anyway, my dear, so as soon as she moves out and he realizes what he’s thrown away, he crashes her Christmas Day Pet Adoption Event in his chariot firetruck. In no time at all, they’re making out in front of a lot of confused people and animals.

And most importantly of all, AMBROSE AND QUEENIE REUNITE! May they sit haunch-to-haunch on the credenza judging their lame owners forever.

The Nine Lives of Christmas could’ve used a few more Christmastime set pieces, but the ease and comic timing of the two leads carries everything along very pleasantly. (Both Kimberly Sustad and Brandon Routh could easily anchor a big screen rom-com if such things were made anymore.) The film made me ask ask myself: where’s my magical cat to set me up with a handsome, perfect guy? Oh yeah, I don’t do pets. Another reason why I’ll die alone.

Though the actions of Ambrose influence the movements of the two main characters, thankfully the “magic animal” element is actually underplayed. Even if it wasn’t, I would still much rather watch this cat than the frequent Hallmark staple of a weird Santa-Claus-lookin’ guy named “Kris” or “Nick” hanging out around corners tapping his nose and giggling mischievously as he makes the lady fall into the guy’s arms or something. THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS TO FIX US SINGLE PEOPLE’S LOVE LIVES, HALLMARK. AT LEAST CATS FUCKING EXIST.

The Nine Lives of Christmas airs again Friday November 14th at 8pm.

Countdown to Christmas scorecard:
*female lead’s name is a Christmas reference: 2/2 films
*female lead gets fired: 1/2
*male lead has sad childhood Christmas memories: 1/2
*romantic ice skating scene: 1/2
*romantic tree decorating scene: 1/2
*character comes to senses after heart-to-heart talk with father figure: 2/2
*dead parents: 1/2


1 Response to “On the ninth life of Christmas, my true love gave to meeee….”

  1. 1 maliaann November 10, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Reblogged this on Writing for the Whole Darn Universe and commented:
    I love Christmas movies. :)

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Other projects:

Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

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