Chaos Attraction

Hallmark Movie Reviews: Pets And Dead Spouses Edition

2014-12-19, 2:02 p.m.

Again, not much happening today, so here's more Hallmark movie reviews from this year's crop, that I saw earlier in the season.

The Nine Lives Of Christmas:

This movie has Brandon Routh cuddling an orange kitty cat. I freely admit that both factors up my love of this movie by like, A LOT.

Anyhoo: Brandon Routh (character's name: Zachary Stone) is a hunky firefighter scarred by his parents' divorce. Between a job where he works 24-hour shifts and a general disbelief in marriage and commitment, and a hobby of remodeling and flipping houses, he has no intention of committing to so much as a plant. But then he rescues an orange cat with the name of Ambrose (it's on his collar) from a dog, and Ambrose strolls into his house and refuses to leave.

Turns out that his most recent owner was an elderly lady who died recently. Zachary thinks he's going to rehome the cat--and the current "girl he's dating" (NOT girlfriend, Zachary makes it clear that that title doesn't go to someone he has no intention of having a future with), Blair, despises anything dependent and wants that cat Out Of There. Zachary is all, "You'd think you'd like pets more since your dad owns a pet store." Though for all of Zachary's worry about what he's going to do with the cat when he's on shift, it's no big deal--he brings the cat to the firehouse and Ambrose becomes the mascot. The captain loves him.

The aforementioned pet store employs Marilee White, a tired vet student/shelter employee who first meets Zachary when she starts advising him on pet food in the grocery store. Then she runs into him when they're both hiding out on a restaurant patio from their respective dinner dates (her: her sister that's nagging her to bring a date to her party. him: Blair and her pretentious friends). Marilee actually ends up making up a fake boyfriend based on Zachary to shut her sister up, which of course never works.

Later Blair drags Zachary and Ambrose into the pet store and tries to foist Ambrose off on Marilee, but Marilee's already hiding one illegal cat in her apartment without taking on two. Blair considers this "rude" and demands that her dad fire Marilee. When Zachary finds out about this (Marilee's fellow employee is enjoyably snotty to him about this when he finds out), he wants to apologize, but the employee friend will only go so far as to tell him Marilee's full name, and she's a rare bird who can't be tracked online. Good for you, Marilee, would that we were all that smart.

So fate has to turn a hand, which is to say that Blair sneaks into Zachary's house, pretends to have cooked dinner for him all day (he points out that (a) he saw the boxes in the trash, and (b) the oven's not even hooked up yet), and throws the cat outside. At which point Zachary politely breaks up with her and goes looking for the cat. Though if I were him, I would have dumped her at the point when he flat out calls her a "psychopath" at the pet store for acting like a brattyass.

Marilee's sister takes her out for a makeover and then desperately wants to meet the new boyfriend, and Marilee convinces her somehow to drop her off at the firehouse without the sister coming in--and that's when Ambrose turns up down the block. And that's what leads to some dates... and Marilee being caught with a cat and immediately getting evicted from her apartment. (Zachary thinks what I do in this situation and is all, "Did you give 48 hours notice before you came in? Nope, you didn't? Well, I'll come by and inspect this place later.") Since Zachary has an upstairs apartment area in the house he's remodeling, he has Marilee move in. Their cats hit it off immediately, as do the humans since they both enjoy remodeling and Marilee knows how to hook up a stove on her own.

Because something has to go a little wrong, Zachary's coworkers start needling him about this becoming A Relationship and he freaks out a little, so when Marilee invites him to the sister's party, he claims he suddenly has to work. And when Marilee shows up at the party, she spots (from behind) Zachary posing for pics with some hot blonde. Naturally, she suddenly finds a new job and new apartment IMMEDIATELY and doesn't tell Zachary where she's going and won't return his phone calls.

Then on Christmas when Zachary is working at the station All Alone (seriously, where is everyone else) but for the cat, Ambrose happens to sit on the newspaper advertising a Christmas Day shelter meet-and-greet that Marilee previously told him she was going to be working at. So he shows up heroically with cat and firetruck to proclaim his love, in a way that clearly indicates the writer of the script loved When Harry Met Sally ("I love that you know how to hook up an oven...."). Oh yeah, and the blonde was the mayor's wife, who he was schmoozing with while promoting the firehouse calendar.

Honestly, I really liked it. That cat is a star. Marilee is a perfectly normal girl with her own issues, but I like her. And while I do kinda have to admit that Brandon Routh can come off a bit wooden at times, he also plays the character as just a normal dude who happens to look like an underwear model and feels creeped out at the idea of being the front of the firehouse calendar. I enjoyed it very much. And I even went out to buy the original book the movie is based off of for Mom for Christmas. Check the book blog later to see how that went.

The Christmas Shepherd:

Comparatively, the "dog movie" is... kinda dull. Actually, I think the issue is that it's Very Serious and About Grief, which is...y'know, not so funsies. Teri Polo is Sally Brown, a Big Name children's book writer who's been left all alone since her husband died 2 years ago and her son went to Afghanistan. Well, she's all alone except for her generically named dog Buddy (the shepherd), who gets out during a storm and gets lost.

Buddy is picked up by a trucker who takes a selfie with the dog and posts it online (somewhere) before dropping him off at the nearest dog shelter on his route, which is an hour away. The shelter owner drops the dog off with her brother, whose first name I forget but their last name is Green*, and his 12-14-year-old (or so) daughter Emma. They're still grieving after the death of the mom 2 years ago--2012 was a rough year-- and after a bit of grudginess, Emma decides she wants to be Buddy's forever home.

* Get it? Brown and Green?

The movie neglects to clarify how the dog has a dog tag with his name on it and yet no way to find his owner (at least Nine Lives covers that by having Zachary call the number and find out the owner died), which seems incredibly out of character for Sally. I do not think that lady would have neglected to put a phone number or a chip on her dog whatsoever. But then again, someone has to carry the Idiot Ball or we have no plot, so.

About a month after Buddy got lost, and two weeks after Buddy has been "forever" homed officially, Sally comes across (or has it sent to her, I was again a little lost on how this worked) that trucker selfie and eventually tracks down Buddy, an hour away from her town. She checked the local shelters, but how was she to know that her dog took a drive? Anyway, AWKWARDNESS ENSUES for the next hour as all the adults feel bad and guilty about debating whether or not it's feasible to take away a dog from a grieving 12-year-old girl.

In the end, Emma comes to the conclusion that since she wishes she could reunite with her mom, but at least Sally can reunite with her she gives up the dog. The folks all get acquainted and then everyone keeps visiting back and forth ever since, with Sally stepping into "mom role" to dress Emma up for her first date with a guy who also liked her dog.

It's not bad, it's just kinda...dull...and serious...not exactly the charming-ish lulzfest that are most Hallmark movies.

By comparison, I'll also review The Christmas Ornament, which also features a grieving widow, but is much less of a mopeful flick:

Kellie Martin (Kathy) and her college sweetheart turned husband started his dream bicycle (literally named Dream Bikes) in January. He died somehow in February, leaving her to run the business alone. Except it's getting no business. She also can't bear to get and decorate a tree since collecting ornaments was A Thing with them. He'd even order ornaments most of a year in advance and arrange to have them shipped to her in December.

So her bestie (Jewel Staite in nerd glasses!) drags her to a tree farm run by the cheerful Cameron Mathison, i.e. Ryan from All My Children. His name was....Tim? Ted? Some kind of T-name to go with Trees. (Oh, it's Tim. But is he tiny? Probably not, muahahahah.) Anyway, the two of them start hanging out and ice skating and discussing business and having a good time doing so, no particular pressures or expectations. Kathy makes a shit ton of Christmas cookies (which she passes out frequently at the tree farm) and debates selling the bike business and starting a cookie business in the end. Tim buys a tree farm and offers her a spot to sell them at.

Eventually romantic interest is expressed, and Kathy reasonably freaks at the idea of being interested in another man when it's literally less than a year since her husband died and her first Christmas alone--yeah, in all honesty, this seems kinda sudden to me too. But then again, I have known a few folks who literally grabbed the first person they could and remarried practically over their wife's corpse, so... Anyway, I pretty much buy it here because these two are clearly having a good time bumming around. I do like it when you actually see folks building a relationship, especially here. It doesn't help that the angel ornament Tim gives her ends up breaking off, which she takes as a bit of A Sign. And then Another Sign happens when her dead husband (remember, I said he ordered presents months in advance) sends her the same angel....FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE!!!!!!

I won't lie: I teared up at that shit. That was cool beans.

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