The Nine Lives of Christmas is the plainest of plain Jane boring kind of movie possible. Frankly, the only way to make it entertaining is by creating imagined backstories for its characters…which is exactly what I did!
But first, let’s make something clear. See that cat on the poster, this poorly photoshopped one right here?
That’s not Ambrose…it doesn’t even pass as Queenie, who you’ll meet later on in this movie. This is why I have to make things up. So without further delay: The Nine Lives of Christmas is the ninth and hopefully final movie in the long running ‘Lives of Christmas’ series about a particularly adventurous cat. Not caught up on what happened previously? Here’s a quick recap:
“The Life of Christmas: The First Tail”: Ambrose the Cat is born, and immediately predicted to be the one to fulfill the prophecy of finding Superman a girlfriend. Unfortunately he doesn’t know Superman and spends the movie trying to get Lana Lang, his owner, to meet Supes and finally succeeds on Christmas Day at the end of the movie.
“The Two Lives of Christmas: Cat Scratch Fever”: Lana and Superman are getting married! One problem: Lana has suddenly developed an allergy to cats. It turns out Lex Luthor is behind the plot and eventually Lana sneezes herself to death on Christmas Eve, the day before the wedding.
“The Three Lives of Christmas: Hiss of Death”: Superman’s depressed and Ambrose is out for revenge. He sports a Rambo outfit and storms Lex’s hideout. After a lot of explosions and gunfire, Lex captures Ambrose and erases his memory. Superman hears about this and saves Ambrose while capturing and imprisoning Lex. Much like Die Hard 3, this was the first of the series not set at Christmas.
“The Four Lives of Christmas: Fur-get Me Not”. Superman is loving caretaker to a cat. This was a return to the drama of the first movie and away from the action-packed second and third movies. In the end Superman is successful in returning Ambrose’s memory.
“The Five Lives of Christmas: Purrfect Match”: With Ambrose’s memories returned he must once again find a girlfriend for Superman who is now ready to move on. After a bunch of wacky speed dates, Ambrose finally finds him Lois Lane.
“The Six Lives of Christmas: Cat and Mouse”: Lex breaks out of prison just in time to sabotage Superman and Lois’ wedding. He captures Lois and brings her to his lair. Ambrose and Superman are in hot pursuit and battle valiantly against a ticking clock, but unfortunately Lois dies. Superman snaps and kills Lex. Ambrose makes the tough call to use Lex’s memory wiping device from the third movie to erase Superman’s memory.
“The Seven Lives of Christmas: Deep Space Feline”: The dark ending of the second trilogy caused the producers to lose the rights to Superman and in turn the seventh movie focuses more on Ambrose’s family-friendly adventure to outer space. It’s an odd outlier and doesn’t really affect any overall plot other than Ambrose gets magic powers.
“The Eight Lives of Christmas: Alley Cat”: Ambrose is a travelling hobo cat. He rides the rails following clues and searching for something. The trail final ends in a small town where he’s promptly captured by the cat catcher and given to an old lady. She keeps him as an inside cat but Ambrose plans to escape by any means necessary when he spots his old pal Superman (although he’s not referred to as superman because of the legal dispute) working at the fire station.
This brings us to the start of “The Nine Lives of Christmas: Firehouse Feline” (subtitle invented). Superman, played by Superman Returns’ Brandon Routh, is now going by the name Zach Stone and is a firefighter because that’s an obvious career of helpfulness that a memory-wiped Superman would go into. As expected, a buff firefighter has no problem getting the ladies. The only thing is, he doesn’t do commitment (probably because his previous two loves ended up dead). This town is big enough to have no shortage of beauties for Superman to plow his way through, but also just small enough that they only need one fire truck and crew of 4 firemen. You’ve got Ray, the lovable fatso, Mark, the token black character, and the chief (whose name I didn’t bother catching), the father figure. They’re all posing for a calendar to raise money for charity. Superman is obviously the cover model, compared to Ray.
Next we meet Marilee White (Kimberly Sustad), which is about as generic as a Christmas name as you can come up with (despite the spelling according to IMDB). She’s asleep in her veterinary school class but luckily she’s a savant and can answer her teacher’s questions in her sleep. Her best friend Sarah is also in her class and informs us that she’s 79 in dog years. Going by the generic formula for calculating that into human years, Sarah is 16 and a half. If she’s lying about her age, she should at least make it believable since she’s in veterinary school and would know dog to human year conversions. If she’s actually 16 and a genius, it’s not showing due to her shoddy math and she should be sent back to high school. Overall, this isn’t important though because Sarah’s only there to bring up a new dating site called “Just Desserts,” which is a singles mingle thing that also serves cake. She tries to convince Marilee to join but she’s just too busy with school; plus Sarah has been to a few of the minglings, hasn’t met anyone, and has gained 5 pounds from eating desserts *sad trumpet noise*. Marilee then has to head to her job at Bosley’s Pet Supply Store.
Meanwhile, Superman returns to his house which is in a perpetual state of construction because he also repairs and flips houses. This house suspiciously has red walls which were probably why he was drawn to it in the first place. Before going in though, he has to save a cat, clearly recognizable as our tenacious hero, Ambrose, from a barking dog in his yard. Superman tells Ambrose to beat it, but instead Ambrose sneaks into the house and sits on Supes’ favourite chair. The movie also goes crazy with the fake cat noises; it’s like the sound editor had never met a real cat as every time one appears on screen there’s a barrage of meowing or purring noises. Later, Superman calls the cat’s owner but discovers that she was an old lady who has died. If you remember “The Eight Lives of Christmas,” and Ambrose’s willingness to do anything for Superman, then we can assume that Ambrose had the old lady killed so he could escape and continue his quest to find Supes a girlfriend. Supes tells him he doesn’t do commitment…but he’ll give him one night. Ambrose then hops into bed with Superman but gets thrown out, has the door closed on him, and told that that’s the limit. Once Superman is asleep, Ambrose uses the outer space magic powers he gained in “The Seven Lives of Christmas” to magic his way back into the bed.
(Note: without the previous made-up explanation, this scene is really weird because the cat wouldn’t actually be able to get back in).
Marilee also has an unpleasant surprise when she returns to her apartment. One of the other tenants, Velma Tuttle (which is a narc’s name if I ever heard one), has narc’d to the landlord about hearing cat noises from Marilee’s apartment. I suspect Velma Tuttle is just a pseudonym for Lex Luthor! Anyways, there’s a strict no pet policy at this place and Marilee assures the landlord she doesn’t have a cat…but of course she does. The cat’s name is Queenie.
Superman tells his firehouse buddies about Ambrose and tries to pawn the cat off on them. Unfortunately they’re dog guys, except the chief…but his wife is allergic to cats. The chief pretty much tells Supes that the cat stays because the chief has as much control of Supes’ personal life as he does his professional life.
Marilee and Superman have their meet-cute in the cat food aisle of the grocery store. She does not approve of Superman’s choice of food for Ambrose and explains in graphic detail the stomach problems it’ll cause. She also calls him a double hero for adopting the cat and also being a firefighter. They also ‘bond’…wait, bond is not quite the right word because this shouldn’t be mistaken as something anyone should be bonding over…over their love of the various shades of white paint….That’s not a typo. Superman is repainting his red house to white but can’t find the correct shade of white. Marilee suggests mixing two shades to get the perfect shade. That’s right, this movie has dropped the Superman and SuperCat adventures of the past movies for the thrilling conversation of paint colour choices. If your opinion of the original Star Wars trilogy is that it barely mentioned the intricacies of intergalactic trade law, than this is the movie for you. Out of mercy for the audience, Superman changes the subject to the huge tub of ice cream in Marilee’s grocery cart and asks her if she is having a party. She is not and politely leaves the conversation embarrassed. She then does the worst ‘hide behind a magazine’ maneuver I’ve ever seen while Superman gets bear hugged by a loud cashier.
He’d saved her previously when her oven exploded. Learn natural gas safety, you silly cashier! But Marilee’s embarrassment isn’t over yet. She spots Supes in the parking lot and ogles him as he jogs over to her. Unfortunately, her ogling caused her grocery cart to start rolling away towards a car and Superman jogs right by her to stop it at the last second. I bet Lex Luthor tampered with the wheels of that cart, that dastardly villain!
Marilee is picked up by her sister Jackie for dinner. Jackie is a real estate agent who shows too much gum when she smiles; not a good teeth-to-gum ratio. She has four dogs with her doofus husband and only talks about two things the whole movie:
1. Marilee’s love life and
2. Their dead mom.
Of course Hallmark had to include that trope. They end up at a restaurant with a delightfully snooty Italian waiter named Ellio.
Meanwhile, Superman continues to struggle with the most important choice of the movie: which shade of white paint will he choose!?
He seriously can’t commit to anything in his life. Just then his supermodel girlfriend, Blair, comes over dressed to the nines in an outfit she stole from a toothpaste commercial (literally). She does not approve of Ambrose, as having a cat is like “having a kid that never grows up and moves out.” She tells Supes to put it up on Craigslist or give it to her dad to get rid of since he owns a pet store. They eventually leave for dinner with Blair’s friends who are boring, but oh wait, what’s this? Our two leads are eating at the same restaurant? Well, that wasn’t predictable.
In order to placate Jackie and her husband’s constant questions about her love life, Marilee ends up lying that she’s seeing a firefighter. They’re obviously super excited and ask what his name is. Marilee says she calls him Brown Eyes. This is smart, because when Jackie tells her to invite Brown Eyes to their annual Christmas Party, Marilee only needs to find any random guy with brown eyes rather the real Brown Eyes i.e. Superman. But oh wait, Superman goes out for air (does anyone still do this?), because Blair’s investment banker friends are boring as hell, at the same time as Marilee. They make a giant leap forward in their banter by skipping over all the topics that normally come after the white paint shade discussion and immediately dive in to talking about true love. Marilee explains that mountain lions jump in front of their true loves and then climb to the highest spot they can find to howl their love for their mate. You can’t be more obvious in foreshadowing.
Marilee goes home and tells her cat how she talked to Brown Eyes for a long time. It was literally 1 minutes, 2 minutes tops and now she’s so pathetic she’s lying about it to a cat.
The next day Sarah sets up a profile on “Just Desserts” to help Marilee get a date for the Christmas party. She instantly receves three cupcakes…which means three people are interested. Sarah insists that she come with her to the next mingling. After school Marilee goes to work and who should show up but Superman and Blair because, in another twist no one saw coming, Blair’s dad owns Bosley Pet Supply Store. Marilee and another associate call her “Blair Witch Project” behind her back, which is actually pretty funny. Not to be outdone though, Blair calls Marilee ‘Lynne’ because her dad owns the place and she’ll be damned if she has to remember the names of sales associates! Superman and Marilee also talk about how they’re stalking each other and it is clear Blair is not happy about this supremely awkward flirtation. She tries to bribe Lynne/Marilee with cat food and litter for her to keep Ambrose. Ambrose swipes at Blair playfully and she flips out about how dangerous the cat is.
Marilee explains that cats can sense people’s true nature and implies that Blair is not a good person. Ambrose seems to love Superman though and he decides to keep him for now and heads to the car. Blair then gets Marilee fired because her dad does whatever she says for some reason even though she has no business acumen. Now jobless, Marilee ditches Sarah and decides to not attend the ‘Just Desserts’ mingling. Those three cupcakes she instantly got, and also the whole website, are never mentioned again in the movie.
Superman now decides to define his relationship with Ambrose and says they’re just a couple of bachelors living together. They go watch football. He also returns to the pet store to apologize about Blair and learns Marilee has been fired. He does charm another sales associate into getting her full name though. Back at the firehouse, Superman’s love life is still the topic of every conversation as he searches Facebook for Marilee. The chief tries to convince him about how great love and family are. Superman tells him that the firemen are his family; the chief replies that he can’t cuddle with them. They also decide Ambrose is going to be their firehouse cat since that’ll make them unique. Unique to who though? Who are they trying to impress? Are they flaunting this cat to all the firehouses to make them jealous? Would that even work or would they just get made fun of even more? Is a firehouse animal even necessary in the 21st century?
Meanwhile, Marilee applies at a surprisingly long list of pet stores that exist in this small town but strikes out at all of them.
A little later, Blair surprises Superman with a “home-cooked” dinner…except Superman uses his X-ray vision to see the takeout boxes in the garbage can. Also, Blair has gotten rid of Ambrose so Superman breaks up with her and goes looking for the cat. He could look faster if he flew but remember those rights were lost and Superman is now Zach Stone who can’t use his powers on screen.
The sisters go out shopping to find Marilee a dress for the Christmas party. Music swells as Marilee exits the dressing room and Jackie tells her that dress is gorgeous….it’s not though.
They also bring back up their dead mom again because that’s Jackie’s purpose in this movie. Her second purpose is to insert herself into Marilee’s love life so she drives her to the firehouse to meet Brown Eyes out of the blue. For some reason, Marilee wore the dress and heels out of the store rather than taking them in a bag like a normal person. After some more lies, she convinces Jackie to leave her because Brown Eyes will drive her home. As soon as Jackie is out of sight though, Marilee starts her cold walk home but finds Ambrose sitting in the street. Ambrose finally gets to do his job and help Superman find a girlfriend.
Marilee brings him into the firehouse and sees Superman again, who apologizes about getting her fired. He also announces he’s no longer with Blair, which Marilee says is great…in a sad way. Superman insists on buying her dinner (maybe that dress really did work?). Marilee brings him to a food truck and calls it a surprise party in your mouth (gross). Did I mention this whole time that Marilee is only wearing that dress despite having to wear a really puffy warm coat for the rest of the movie? Superman lends her his big yellow fire coat and they talk about what led them to their careers. Marilee saved a baby bird when she was young and young Superman was saved by a firefighter when his house caught on fire (probably Lex Luthor again!). He also talks about his commitment issues stemming from his parents always fighting and getting divorced. Marilee then gloats that her parents were so in love. They don’t kiss at the end of the date but Marilee steals the big yellow fire coat. This is merely just a game plan by Superman as the next day he shows up after Marilee’s class and asks to buy her coffee and get his coat back. Superman is a smooth operator.
They return to Marilee’s house to find the landlord evicting her because a plumber found her cat. Superman quotes a bunch of city codes about requiring 48 hours notice for entering the premise and some other fire codes needing to be up to date, but it doesn’t help much. Marilee is still evicted but Superman says he’ll make the landlord’s life hell by checking in every week.
Superman then pulls a move that only works in the movies and asks Marilee to move in with him because the house he’s renovating has an upstairs apartment. She agrees and asks if her cat Queenie will be a problem. Superman insists that for anyone to live here, they have to have a cat. Also Ambrose and Queenie really like each other. There’s another barrage of cat noises and lots of shots of the cats staring at each other.
Marilee’s first order of business in this house that isn’t hers is to paint the whole place because she’s jobless. Prepare for another scintillating conversation about white paint: Superman loves it, it’s exactly the bland and unexciting colour he was looking for. Turns out she mixed eggshell and ecru to get Pearl. Better still, she actually cooked a meal. Superman invites her to eat with him but she says she already ate and picks up Queenie to go to her upstairs apartment. Both Superman and Marilee then talk to their cats about how he was just being polite, or she wasn’t hungry to convince themselves that there’s nothing between them. Dudes, you’re clearly the only two people on this planet that get off on talking about shades of white, there’s clearly something there!
Marilee’s second order of business in this house that isn’t hers is to put Christmas lights up outside for curbside appeal. She does this by using nails rather than those convenient plastic clips that don’t leave holes in your roof or gutters. Not very respectful, Marilee. Anyway, Superman has to go to the tile store to not commit to different shades of white (probably) and invites Marilee with the caveat that he has to stop somewhere first.
That somewhere is a school where he does his superman pose (because of muscle memory) and teaches kids about fire safety.
Now it’s time to montage through the more boring stuff these two people do: jogging, renovating, and reading the newspaper.
Superman meanwhile tells the firehouse that she’s only a temporary roommate even when they insist he’s falling for her. They also just returned from a fire caused by someone trying to BBQ a turkey in a fireplace…this town doesn’t deserve Superman.
Marilee and Superman go pick out a Christmas tree, because this movie needed something Christmas-related as up until this point, the story could’ve been happening at any time of the year. Marilee has this down to a science and just like that knows which tree she wants. Superman panics slightly and asks how she knows it’s the one: what if there are other trees, what if this tree isn’t the right one? Clearly he’s got some doubts over this Maritree (see what I did there?).
After a Folgers commercial…
Oh wait, no we’re still watching the movie. Sarah convinces Marilee to do the mistletoe test with Superman. If he kisses her on the cheek, he wants to be friends. If he kisses her on the lips, it means he likes her. Marilee says that’s crazy…slam cut to her putting up mistletoe and then going through a variety of poses under it trying to find the right one to use to enthrall him.
Superman of course kisses her on the lips but then the movie has the gall to cut away and not show us what happens next. Seems like something important would happen after that, but I guess it didn’t involve white paint so they weren’t inspired enough to write the scene.
The firefighters tell Superman that there are 4 steps for falling for a women and the last is to meet her family. So of course the next scene is Marilee inviting Superman aka Brown Eyes to her family Christmas party. Superman lies, panicking, and says he’s working. He also has to work on Christmas Day but that’s okay because Marilee is volunteering at a pet adoption event that is also on Christmas Day.
Marilee goes to her party alone and spots Superman there hugging a blonde lady. She leaves without saying anything and cries.
The next day, she packs her things and tells him she found a job. Superman tries to get her to stay by saying Ambrose will miss her and Queenie.
The chief again tries to convince Superman that love is good, but Superman says he doesn’t need anybody. Then the chief reveals that it was he who saved Superman from that burning house which in turn led Supes to becoming a firefighter. Clearly this backstory was implanted when Superman had his memory wiped in the sixth movie. Either way it’s a reveal to the audience. The chief tells him this is one of those defining moments and he should go find Marilee. Superman is convinced and asks Ambrose where she is…but Ambrose is a cat and according to the chief “not Lassie”. You’ll be proven wrong soon enough, Chief!
It’s Christmas Eve now, I guess, which means Marilee has nothing better to do that stare at these really fake stars
I believe these fake stars indicate that Superman has been trapped by Lex Luthor in a Truman Show-esque dome; a plotline that was probably cut due to pacing issues.
It’s Christmas Day and Superman is still asking Ambrose where Marilee is when the cat begins pawing at a newspaper that has an article about the pet adoption event she said she would be attending. For someone with SuperHearing, Superman needs to work on his listening skills.
So of course Superman steals the town’s only fire truck and rides lights and horn ablazing to the pet adoption in the park. Regulations and safety be damned, he’s in love! He explains that the woman at the party was just the mayor’s wife and he was promoting the firehouse calendar. He professes his love for her and then mentions their bland love of the colour white. Then, like the mountain lion story from earlier that had no credible source, he climbs to the highest peak he can find, which happens to be the top of the fire truck. Just then Ambrose hops out of the fire truck and uses his magic powers to open Queenie’s cat crate, allowing her to escape adoption. Marilee joins him and they kiss on top of the fire truck while no one watches. You’d think a fire truck with a guy yelling from the top of it would attract attention but no, these townspeople have pets to adopt and they’re sticking to their own business.
The last shot is of Ambrose and Queenie sitting together on the dash of the truck, mission finally complete.
But don’t worry, Ambrose and Superman will return in the “Ten Lives of Christmas: Year of the Cat” in which Superman regains his memory and escapes the Truman Show to get revenge on Lex Luthor!
Not very good. When your audience has to invent back stories to make the characters more interesting, you know the movie has problems. I firmly believe I put more time and effort into this than anyone involved with this movie.