Nine Kittens of Christmas

Guys. I was SHOCKED when I heard all the buzz about this movie. The title alone. I was like, are we for real? This is a long awaited sequel? A movie about cats? A second movie about cats? What are we all doing here! But, lucky for ALL of us, a fellow Hallmark movie reviewer was willing to share his take on my page. Our guest reviewer today is Brandon VanWaeyenberghe. Brandon lives in Duluth, Minnesota and is the Executive Director of the local symphony orchestra. He has a really creative approach to his Hallmark reviews. He wisely watches these movies while he exercises. While he has always had a soft spot for Hallmark movies, last year, he decided to combine his passions of Christmas and fitness by running on a treadmill to all 23 new Hallmark movies in 2020.  This year, his goal is to either run or row to the 31 new movies.  His dog Barley is his (unwilling) companion, and you can follow his journey at @bveedub on Instagram. Honestly, this is what I should be doing. Why haven’t I just set my Echelon on scenic route and peddled away? This changes now. Anyway, we are all in for a REAL TREAT; and me most of all since I didn’t have to watch this movie. Read all the way to end for Brandon’s own review of the movie! He posts these on his Instagram page for every movie as well! Let’s dive in!

So, the “Nine Kittens of Christmas,” or the “Nine Kittens for the Holiday” is a continuation of the 2014 movie “Nine Lives of Christmas.”  You do not need to know about the prior movie to jump into this one, but after watching the entire movie, I think some context would have been helpful.  It certainly would have established some of the characters and their motivations in a complete fashion.

Zachary (Brandon Routh) is a fireman in Bend, Oregon, who is planning his now annual tradition of a ski trip with the guys.  His fellow fire people joke around with him about his trip, obviously avoiding talking about the impetus behind this annual departure.  Zach’s boss, Fire Chief Sam (Gregory Harrison) sets Zach up to play an important part in the annual fundraiser.  Zach’s cat Ambrose is getting in the way of the fire people, to cute effect. Cut to Marilee (Kimberley Sustad) in her vet’s office in Miami, Florida.  The camera lingers on a picture of the late cat Queenie, a reference to other movie.  Marilee is preparing to go home to Bend to spend time with her family, and her boyfriend and co-owner of the vet client Miles says he will join her as soon as he can.  There is even some great interaction with Miles given Marilee a cat toy for the flight instead of to her new cat Dutchess.

Marilee arrives home to join her sister Jaclyn (Stephanie Bennett) and her daughter Sierra (Linden McMillan).  All three of them open an advent calendar left by their late mother, which contains a single charm.  More on that later.  While walking around town, Marilee backwards runs into Zach, which we discover is her ex from the first movie and that the broke up 3 years ago, which caused Marilee to move (or maybe?  The movie does not include a solid timeline about their relationship.)  Zach is an elf costume for some community event and Marilee tells Jacyln that Zach did not change so she had to leave him and town.

Right before Zach is scheduled to leave for a ski trip, he goes by the fire station to drop off his cat. That’s when he discovers a box of nine kittens has been left outside the fire station. Again don’t know who would leave a box of 10 week old kittens in front of the fire station instead of a veterinary clinic, but you needed something to obviously propel the characters together, and in this movie it’s all about the cats. In a weird twist of fate, the town’s only veterinarian has just retired [weird timing, right?]. In wandering down the street and looking for someone to take care of the kittens, Zach runs into Merilee and they both agree to work together to find all of them homes before Christmas.

Fire Chief Sam and his wife, while sidewalk shopping, decided to adopt two kittens after promoted by Zach.  Chief Sam later tells Zach that he is going to retire after the Christmas fundraiser, and the kittens will help him and his wife start a new life.  Meanwhile, young Sierra jumps at the opportunity to demonstrate that she can care for pets, offering to make socks for the kittens and naming them after all eight reindeer and Rudolph (no shiny nose).  Chief Sam take Zach out for coffee to discuss his retirement and asks to name him as his successor.  Zach is unsure about the role, so he will later ask Marilee who confirms in him that he is a good man, and would be perfect for the job, all while giving him some romantic eye contact.

In an effort to help get the kittens adopted, Zach and Marilee pair up to bring them to various events around town.  It includes a lovely reconnection with Ambrose and Marilee.  In the supermarket, where apparently, they met for the first time Marilee mentions Brandon has been called a superhero.  This is a subtle shout out to his time as Superman and appearances on “Legends of Tomorrow” on the CW.” Over some coffee brainstorming, they have the brilliant idea to host a pop-up cat café at a local coffee shop.  The pair of Zach and Marilee appear to be moving emotionally closer as the number of available cats decrease.  Marilee’s family encourages her to go with Zach to a choir practice, where a very surprised (and quite possibly only) chorus member agrees to take the last three kittens.  Tension is in the air as both Zach and Marilee realize now they have no more excuses to spend time together.

One of the two B story plots (along with the advent calendar) is the retirement of Fire Chief Sam.  After mulling over getting him a memorial bench, golf clubs and a scooter (huh?), rookie Gabi (Victoria Dunsmore) has the great idea to refinish an old fire truck that Sam had purchased several years ago.  It is a Christmas miracle that they were able to refinish the truck in only three days, but I am sure a group of 12 firefights in Bend, Oregon can work around the clock to do their outgoing boss proud one last time.

When Zach and Marilee start dropping off kittens, the chorus lady now cannot take in cats as she has just rescued another set of kittens.  Red flags should have gone up when it was learned that chorus lady has her own cat rescue, but hey, no problem.  Now the pair is in the movies first of two crisis points of the movie to get these kittens adopted by Christmas.  After decorating Sam’s Christmas tree during the home visit, Zach invites Marilee to the fire station in a few hours.  Marilee goes and finds that Zach has printed up a new banner advertising the kittens posted on the side of the restored fire truck.  Marilee aggressively kisses Zach, and then runs away.  The movie cuts to both of them talking over the situation to their respective cats and wrestling with their feelings for each other.  As someone who often talks to my dog Barley, I get that talking out issues can really help.  Barley declines to talk back.

At the Christmas Fundraiser, Marilee walks in a green dress (picked by her cat) and makes Zach speechless.  Following his announcement as the new Fire Chief, Zach dances with Marilee and starts to finally share his feelings for her.  And then, the second crisis point arrives in Bend, Oregon as Miles, Marilee’s ex-boyfriend of only a few days makes a grand gesture to come in person and convince her to stay with him.  They go outside and talk, and Zach sees them through the window, where Sierra tells him they an item (“Do you know that guy?” “Only from their Christmas card.”  Marilee tells Miles honestly that she belongs home with her family, and Zach walks out of the party.

Now for some cat intervention! Despondent and at home, Marilee is talking with Dutchess, who pulls her phone out of her purse to make her call Zach one more time.  Zach is at home wondering if he should pick up the call when Ambrose steps on the phone and answers the call.  Zach listens and Marilee pours her heart out to him.  The next morning Marilee tells her sister that she is staying in town and renting the retired vet’s space.  They open the final advent calendar box and find a wreath, indicative of the ones Marilee and Jaclyn’s mom used to make friends at the holidays.  Sierra is gifted two of the remaining three cats and promised to take great care of them.  Zach shows up in the restored fire truck (is Sam just letting anyone drive his new ride?) and tells Marilee he has found a home for Rudolph, a nice couple.  Zach drives Marilee to his house and confesses his love for her.  While Marilee clutches the kitten, Zach asks her to adopt Rudolph with him and then proposed to her.

Overall, I thought this was a fine movie and appreciated the acting, especially by Brandon Routh.  However, the whole proposal after 7 days, even with a previous relationship, felted hurried.  And maybe all three of the cats cannot get along – was anyone thinking about their needs? 

What did you think about the movie?  Did you have the same feelings about the ending?

Movie # 16 – Nine Lives of Holidays (or Nine Kittens of Christmas)

Synopsis: Ex’s Zachary and Marilee come back together again to rescue and rehome nine kittens left at a fire station, while both grasping at what needs to change in their lives.

Rowing Distance: 15,176 meters (9.43 miles) [First complete movie while rowing]

Total Time: 1:20:28

Pace per 500m:  2:39

Hot Take:  This movie is a sequel to 2014’s Nine lives of Christmas.  You do not need to see the original to understand the sequel.  This move is abundantly cute – mean it has 11 cats in it!  Brandon Routh (one-time Superman) plays a great lead, and fumbles at all the right times with his ex-girlfriend Marilee.  Pretty early on Marilee dumps her Miami boyfriend and focused on reconnecting with Zach, but even a grand gesture from Miles to arrive at the town fundraiser does not save him.  The movie is certainly not a typical Hallmark story – it acknowledges the first movie romance did not work and created a scenario to drive the two back together.  However, {SPOILER} to end the movie with a proposal after maybe a week of reconnecting is a bit forced, even if they have an extensive backstory.  He does not even know if she is going to stay in town {she is} or if their cats will get along {maybe}.

Sub-Romance:  None

Tropes Used:  Christmas Tree Decorating, Fundraising for Charity at Christmas

Really Odd Moment:  The slow-motion bundt cake decorating scene.  There was just no need for it.

Best Joke:  “I tell my cat everything.  What I spend on cat food I save on therapy!”

Really… REALLY?:  The pair open a makeshift cat cafe in a coffee shop with food.  I am pretty sure that is against health code violations.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Bookstore Cats (living at a Coffee Shop)

Leave a Reply