For Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Happy Holidays Blogathon, I had planned on reviewing more than one film. However, after reflecting on how many movies I reviewed in November, I decided to talk about only one instead. When I signed up for this blogathon last month, I knew that I wanted to review The Nine Lives of Christmas, a Hallmark Channel movie that was released in 2014. Among fans of the network, this movie has caused the same reaction that 2006’s The Christmas Card has. From making repeat appearances in Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” line-up to fans of the film asking for a sequel, The Nine Lives of Christmas has gained a following of devoted audience members. Every Christmas season on 18 Cinema Lane, I try to review at least one past Hallmark Christmas film. This is to determine if my thoughts on the movie are similar to the general consensus. Last year, I talked about the aforementioned film, The Christmas Card. As I mentioned in that review, a lot of Hallmark fans love this movie. However, I found it to be just ok. So, it’ll be interesting to see how I feel about The Nine Lives of Christmas.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: In most of Hallmark’s films, the acting from the entire cast appears natural and believable. That’s no different for The Nine Lives of Christmas! As I’ve said in my review of Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen, it’s always nice to see Kimberley Sustad appear in a Hallmark movie. Even though seeing her in a lead role is rare, I know that Kimberley will bring her A game to every role she is given. In The Nine Lives of Christmas, Kimberley’s portrayal of Marilee was delightful! Through her performance, she was able to create a character that was relatable. This was done by bringing various emotions and behaviors to her role. I also liked Brandon Routh’s portrayal of Zachary! He effectively gave me the impression that his character was a tough man with a kind heart. This fit the idea that I, personally, have of firefighters; strong and selfless individuals who are ready to save the day. Watching his interactions with Ambrose, the cat, were very sweet. It allowed the character to make a transformation in his perspectives, which Brandon naturally portrayed through his expressions and on-screen personality. The supporting cast was very memorable! They were able to elevate the material and help make it memorable. This is what made the overall cast a solid group of actors and actresses!
The interactions between the characters: A great component of this film was the various interactions that took place among the characters! What made them work was how natural they came across on screen. Whenever Zachary was sharing a scene with his fellow firefighters, I could sense the camaraderie between these characters. It was nice to see them share funny moments as well as look out for each other’s best interests. Another character interaction that I liked seeing was between Marilee and her sister, Jaclyn. Even though their personalities were different, their relationship felt genuine. I was always led to believe that Jaclyn had her sister’s best interests in mind and that Marilee truly cared about her sibling. Because this group of actors was talented, this added to the enjoyment of these interactions!
The humor: For some reason, it seems like most of Hallmark’s Christmas films have been light on humor this year. So, I found the light-hearted and humorous nature of The Nine Lives of Christmas to be refreshing! There were several moments that made me burst out laughing. One example is the very first scene, when Zachary was having his picture taken for a charity calendar. What made the moment work was the dialogue among the characters. It was well-written and good-natured, which helped make it feel genuine. Even the moments with Ambrose were funny! A perfect example is when the cat sits on Zachary’s chair, even after Zachary told him not to. The overall humor of this film made my viewing experience very memorable!
What I didn’t like about the film:
The villain: Within the first half of this movie, Zachary dates an unlikable woman named Blair. While the actress who portrayed this character, Chelsea Hobbs, did a really good job at bringing Blair to life and while it is rare to find an over-the-top villain in a Hallmark production, I found this particular character to be one-dimensional. I realize that the fault lies in the screen-writing, as that is where the structure of any character is built. In The Nine Lives of Christmas, Blair was a terrible person because she was a terrible person. I did not find this to be very interesting. Let me give you an example of when a villain/antagonist works within the story: in A Christmas Miracle, Emma’s boss, Valerie, is so desperate to impress her boss, that she steals Emma’s idea and tries to pass it off as her own. This leads her to make more choices that give the audience a reason to find her villainous. So, in that movie, Valerie is a terrible person because of her unlikable decisions.
An uneven build-up to Zachary and Marilee’s relationship: While Brandon and Kimberley had good on-screen chemistry and while Zachary and Marilee’s relationship was very sweet, I found the build-up of the relationship to be uneven. In the first half of the movie, Zachary and Marilee barely spent any time together. This caused the initial union of these characters to feel drawn-out. In the second half of the film, Zachary and Marilee spend almost every day together, which caused the relationship to feel rushed. The build-up didn’t have a sense of consistency and the transition was too abrupt.
Not a Christmas story: When I think of a Christmas movie, I think of a story that can only survive during the Christmas season. With The Nine Lives of Christmas, the plot felt like it didn’t need to belong within the Christmas holiday. Yes, there were Christmas decorations and festivities to be found. But no Christmas specific messages and themes were presented in the narrative. I felt like this exact same story could have been placed in any time of the year and it wouldn’t make a huge difference.
My overall impression:
I said in this review’s introduction that a lot of Hallmark fans love The Nine Lives of Christmas. After finally seeing this movie for the first time, I can understand why people like it so much! Sure, this film has flaws. But I still found it to be enjoyable. What I like about this movie is how different it felt from Hallmark projects that were released within the past two years. While The Nine Lives of Christmas had story-telling elements that are familiar to consistent movie-watchers of the network, it felt like the film’s creative team made an effort to try something new. This makes me wish that Hallmark could go back to that mindset, where they weren’t afraid to do different things even though they were starting to create their brand’s image. The Nine Lives of Christmas is not my favorite Hallmark Christmas film, as there are other movies that I like more than this one. But I do think it is an overall solid production!
Overall score: 8.5 out of 10
Have you seen The Nine Lives of Christmas? Which past Hallmark Christmas movie would you like to see me review? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!