It’s a little bit early in the year for me to be watching, let alone writing about, the Netflix Christmas originals. But in a time of serious uncertainty, there’s some comfort to be found in the formulaic nature of these films. It’s almost like a choose-your-own-adventure in the Netflix search bar — do you want to be a rich city gal discovering the magic of Christmas in a small town or a young girl, down on her luck, who meets a prince and falls in love?
But how do all these movies rank against each other? Few stand out from the crowd, but at some point, the movies all start to blur together and there isn’t any point in watching them. I didn’t even have to watch “Christmas Inheritance;” the trailer says it all and even that isn’t worth watching. The movie is just an hour and a half filled with narcissistic, rich socialites discovering that the meaning of life isn’t all parties and money in the big city. It’s actually parties and money in a small town where you can do a poorly executed vault without ending up on Page Six. But, for the sake of journalistic integrity, I watched “Christmas Inheritance,” and the most exciting parts of this film are Andie Macdowell’s (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”) motherly lectures about connecting with your true self. The small-town charm imbued into Netflix’s newest corporate tycoon almost made me want to use my business degree in a traditional manner.
That “almost” went away just as fast as these holiday couples fall in love when I moved on to “A Christmas Prince.” Set in a fictional European country, the film looks like something straight out of the Swiss Alps, totally and completely removed from the chaos of online classes. One of Netflix’s better holiday films, it’s the first of three, but that’s two movies too many. The point of these films is to let me wallow in single self-pity and believe that “happily ever afters” are real. I don’t need to know what happens after the kiss under the mistletoe in front of the Christmas tree, I just need to know that these fictional characters are perpetually happy. What “A Christmas Prince” lacks in an understanding of the art of a singular holiday movie, it makes up for in its engineering of an “uninterested” girl, Amber (Rose McIver, “Daffodils”), finding an unlikely suitor in a prince (Ben Lamb, “Divergent”) (Prince Richard of Aldovia to be exact). It has all the makings of a mismatched pair: She’s a driven journalist, he’s a misunderstood soul who only feels truly seen by someone who cares more about her story than the crown. As Amber and Richard fall for each other, with the help of Richard’s adorable younger sister Emily (Honor Kneafsey, “The Bookshop”), the audience falls for Aldovia.
But Aldovia isn’t Netflix’s only storybook holiday kingdom. “The Princess Switch,” starring Vanessa Hudgens (“High School Musical”), tells the story of an overworked baker who discovers life beyond the kitchen with the help of a royal doppelganger. A mix of “The Parent Trap” and “The Princess Diaries,” “The Princess Switch” is the cure to any winter, or quarantine, blues. Hudgens speaks with an awful accent that’s vaguely European, who’s to say if it’s English or not? The mayhem that ensues when the princess and baker decide to switch places is an entertaining mix of romance and comedy as one girl learns the difficulties of being royal while the other discovers the complicated nature of a standing mixer.
Finally, what’s a holiday movie list without an ensemble film? 2019’s “Let It Snow” was an adaptation of the book of the same name written by an impressive list of authors (including favorites like John Green and Jenny Han). Following a series of stories ranging from best friends who may or may not be in love and a celebrity crush coming to fruition, “Let It Snow” is a sampling of every Wattpad, young-adult novel trope out there. The minute everyone comes together, finally detailing how each seemingly unrelated character knows each other, it’s like receiving a warm hug. As the film comes to an end, the snow falls outside the pancake joint and there’s still a week of winter break left and all you’re left with is the nostalgia of snow and a time where staying in was merely a comfortable choice rather than a government mandate.