Will playboy Prince Richard (Ben Lamb, “Divergent”) give up a life of reckless partying and women to assume the throne of his late father, the King? The world wants to know the dish, and aspiring journalist Amber (Rose McIver, “iZombie”) is hot on the case. The Netflix original Lifetime-style “A Christmas Prince” is a superficial but fun commoner-meets-royalty love story set in the royal castle of Aldovia, a vague European country with polished British accents and a lack of geographic context. There’s something satisfying in knowing a movie will play out exactly how you expect it to, and “A Christmas Prince” brings nothing new or surprising to the formula of its genre. The movie is best enjoyed in a communal viewing experience, with everyone shouting at the characters for doing dumb things in unrealistic situations. It’s a different kind of enjoyment than a thought-provoking drama or a calculated thriller, but definitely fun in its own right.
The movie opens with about thirty seconds of backstory before Amber gets her Big Assignment. We know nothing about her other than her journalistic career goals and that her mother died of cancer (her token trauma). But we don’t need to know anything else. She is the typical, unassuming sweetheart that is bumbling at times but who will inevitably capture the heart of the mysterious prince. After getting assigned what may be her big break, Amber jets off to Aldovia, where she ends up unwittingly posing as the young Princess Emily’s (Honor Kneafsey, “Miss You Already”) American tutor. The royal family and staff is inexplicably acidic towards Amber, speaking to her in a tone that is too biting to make sense — it is one of the most hilarious and entertaining parts of the films and a staple of the genre. Princess Emily, the token little sister who forms a bond with Amber and cements her in the royal household, is a thinly veiled plot device that enables Amber to get closer to the enigmatic Richard.
Richard’s playboy reputation is quickly dismantled by his quiet love of archery, piano and horseback riding. In keeping with the tropes of the genre, Amber’s investigative focus dissolves as she realizes there’s more to him than meets the eye and he reveals his vulnerable and sensitive side. And, of course, she is the only one who can see his true self. The romance is highly predictable, but you can’t help squealing at their tender snowfall kiss. The movie is filled with unnecessary points of conflict that have no real weight and are easily resolved, centering around the conniving cousin, the seductive minx, and the twist that could change everything. Complete with a classic makeover scene and a dramatic betrayal, the movie stays firmly on the tracks of its narrative formula.
“A Christmas Prince” is empty fodder for people who like superficial romances, castles and Christmas balls. The movie definitely has some faults in terms of representations of women, disability and family dynamics, but is ultimately harmless and not worth diving into. There is nothing challenging or subversive in this movie, but that’s not the point. It’s a great choice if you want to curl up on the couch, eat cookies, yell at the TV and enjoy a sappy one-dimensional rags-to-riches love story.