For a streaming entity that makes a big deal about how it can’t possibly release ratings, Netflix’s snarky tweet this week came off as sneaky and condescending to people who were watching the movie that Netflix created.
So what was so addictive about a new Christmas movie that a few dozen people watched it every day for two and a half weeks? We decided to give it a whirl.
Fortunately, we are somewhat experts in this field and have noticed a definite veering toward various monarchies in this particular genre. Apparently the only thing better than Christmas and romance this time of year is Christmas and romance and royalty. It’s not like A Christmas Prince is groundbreaking in this arena. In the last several years, there’s been 2011’s A Princess For Christmas, featuring Katie McGrath, Supergirl’s Lena Luthor, in the Cinderella role of a commoner who attracts the attentions of a prince; 2015’s A Prince For Christmas; or 2014’s A Royal Christmas, with Mean Girl Lacey Chabert. Even this year, there’s also My Christmas Prince, with the best part being that the female lead’s parents are played by Pamela Sue Martin and Parker Stevenson: Nancy Drew and Frank Hardy from the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries from the ’70s.
If we had a holiday romance TV movie bingo card, Netflix’s A Christmas Prince would have us collecting our winnings about 10 minutes in. Young, poor, yet plucky heroine: Rose McIver, star of iZombie. Remote, blandly handsome prince: Experienced The White Queen royal Ben Lamb. Ridiculously fake-sounding name-of country: Aldovia. Adorable moppet: check. Stern royal staff member who gets turned around at the end: check. Conniving romantic hurdle who wants the prince just for the crown: Lady Sophia. (This is the second one of these we’ve seen recently where the prince asks his supposed betrothed if she only wants him for the title and they don’t even have the decency to deny it: “It’s part of who you are!”) Picturesque, postcard-worthy yet nondescript castle: The one in A Christmas Prince was even already used in A Princess For Christmas.
McIver, so effective as that benevolent zombie on her CW show, plays Amber Moore, a underemployed, hungry journalist who gets assigned to cover playboy Prince Richard’s coronation in Aldovia. When he bails on the press conference, she somehow worms her way into the castle by posing as the new tutor for his spinal bifida-afflicted sister, Emily. If you’re guessing that Amber is adorably clumsy but adds a needed breath of life to the dingy castle, you’d be right! She soon discovers that Richard is not a nasty playboy, but hides behind this shallow veneer while grieving the recent death of his father, making him unenthusiastic about that coronation. Amber soon endears herself to the castle by winning over the cute, headstrong Emily; then the fake tutor and the prince edge closer together as he saves her from some wolves in the forest (a scene right out of Beauty And The Beast) and finds her horrible archery skills adorable.
The wrinkles are the wrinkles that appear in every TV romance movie: When Richard finds out that Amber’s really a reporter and not a tutor, will he ever be able to forgive her for her deception? Will Lady Sophia succeed at getting in the way? Added royal romance bonus: Will there be a requisite ball, and a Cinderella makeover with the house staff serving as makeshift fairy godmothers? Yes, no, and decidedly yes. A Christmas Prince gets some points for throwing an adoption plot into the mix—Richard (gasp!) is adopted, which may get in the way of his inheriting the throne due to royal lineage—but fortunately Amber is such a savvy reporter, she discovers that Richard’s father hid a royal decree that will let his son become ruler anyway. So the Christmas Prince is really a Christmas king, but that would apparently be a less catchy title.
It’s best if you just ignore the plot holes: Why did the original tutor never show up? How can young Emily and Richard be siblings, since the Queen (Borg Queen Alice Krige) must have been at least 50 when she had her? Why would Amber, on her first official press tour, only bring sneakers and a college-era wardrobe, but a variety of color-coordinated winter hats? How is Richard able to track Amber down at her dad’s New York diner at the end when he doesn’t even know that her dad has a diner and that she would be there at that moment?
Possibly the reason the movie is doing so well is that it’s listed at the top of your Netflix screen (depending on your preferences) along with other Netflix originals, like El Camino Christmas with Tim Allen, and A Storybots Christmas, whatever they are. And its appealing blandness and Christmas Cinderella theme should make the movie immediately and inoffensively palatable to everyone from small children to the elderly, as it’s as escapist and realistic as the animated version of Beauty And The Beast. Apparently these multiple royal romance movie heroines are alarmingly ready to ditch democracy to hang out on the arm of these benevolent unelected monarchs—fancy dresses, servants, and castles included. No matter how many of these frothy concoctions these services turn out (and Netflix falls in line right behind Lifetime and Hallmark here), the wannabe princess market will keep sustaining them, as the holidays appear to be the season of fantasy and unrealistic expectations overall. Besides, a service that brought us 10 full episodes of Gypsy this year really shouldn’t be slagging off on other people’s choices.