Spoilers ahead for Netflix’s A Christmas Prince.
The world collectively swooned last week when, after weeks of rumours, it was finally announced that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged. The storybook ending of an American marrying England’s ginger prince is one of which fantasies are made, and by fantasies, we mean an entire genre of movie. The Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and Hollywood at large traffic in this very subject and sentimentality. A commoner bewitching a prince is a time-honoured tale, dating back to Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast (both variations on the theme). Perhaps this is why the new Netflix film A Christmas Prince has captured the fancy of many viewers since it dropped on the streaming service in mid-November.
Perhaps it’s too early to crown this confection a new holiday classic, but it has all the makings of a time-honoured November/December repeat-watch — even if it’s a hate-watch. The film is about Amber Moore (Rose McIver), and all-American blonde who yearns for a journalism career. Instead of writing her own features, though, she’s stuck editing puff pieces about Fashion Week at a magazine that is either called Beat Now or Now Beat — the logo makes it quite unclear. One day, she’s called up out of the editing bullpen for a major assignment: The prince of made-up, vaguely European Aldovia has been shirking his royal duties for the past year and living it up as a supposed playboy (or is that just the picture the media is painting of him? Only some ace sleuthing will tell), but now the clock has run out and he has to decide whether or not to accept the position as king of Aldovia.
Beat Now or Now Beat’s regular staff writers are all busy, so it’s up to Amber to fly on over to Aldovia (where the airport is so heavily branded as ALDOVIA that it’s like a McDonald’s) to attend a press conference where the prince will finally announce whether or not he’ll assume the throne. But —mon dieu! — when the press conference is finally set to begin, the prince is nowhere to be found. Amber decides to do some gumshoe reporting, and she creeps into the palace, only to be discovered and mistaken for the new American tutor who’s just been hired to teach the princess (Honor Kneafsey). As Entertainment Weekly points out in an excellent article replete with pressing questions about A Christmas Prince, no one thinks to, say, check her passport or any sort of identification to make sure that this person who has just wandered into the palace (they might want to work on security) is who she claims to be.
Long story short, the prince (Ben Lamb, really not doing it for me in the slightest) and Amber fall for one another. Still, there’s the wee problem of her lying about her identity and trying to write a story about the real prince, the man behind the playboy image, at the request of the princess, who wises up to Amber’s real identity basically the moment they meet. (Maybe she should be in charge of palace security.) It all comes to a head at a Christmas ball (where else?) that also serves as Prince Richard’s coronation, and therefore allows someone to literally call him a “Christmas Prince,” the lovely title of the movie. Except, since he’s being made king on Christmas, shouldn’t it be A Christmas King? Semantics, I suppose. It doesn’t have the same romantic ring to it.
I don’t want to give away the entire plot of the movie, because it involves a hilarious looking set of documents that may very well just mean Richard losing the throne to his scheming cousin Simon (Theo Devaney), a cartoonish would-be antagonist whose only treachery seems to be that he…wants the throne. If Richard doesn’t, why can’t he just let Simon have it? Richard is far too noble, it appears.
Spoiler alert: It all ends with a proposal that has now-King Richard standing outside of Amber’s father’s diner in New York City with zero bodyguards (once again, does Aldovia not have a protection budget for its royal family?), asking for her hand in marriage despite her having deceived him the entire time they knew each other. Oh well; we’ve got our betrothal, and she’s even going to keep her life in New York — or so Richard says. Just like the opening theme of Hannah Montana, Amber gets the best of both worlds.
It all sounds pretty run-of-the-mill and predictable, right? An almost cut-and-paste amalgamation of several Hallmark and Lifetime films you’ve seen before, plus The Prince and Me, The Princess Diaries, and other Hollywood fare. It’s extremely confusing as to why this film was made by Netflix, purveyor of complex fare like Stranger Things, House of Cards (now besmirched but quality nonetheless), and Orange Is the New Black. But, it’s the little Christmas film that could. More and more people are catching onto the mind-numbingly formulaic magic of A Christmas Prince.
This movie is exactly what we need at this moment in time. It’s been a mere two months since The New York Times dropped its bombshell exposé exposing Harvey Weinstein as an alleged predator. Since that day, it feels like more and more sexual misconduct allegations emerge from the woodwork daily. Despite the powerful men being toppled, we still can’t seem to shake the most unfortunately powerful one of them all, the current commander in chief. In fact, he now reportedly denies that it was his voice on the Access Hollywood tape many people thought would sink his ability to capture the presidency. It’s a depressing time, even if the current climate means that sexual violence survivors are now feeling more empowered than ever to come forward with their stories.
It’s amid these murky waters that A Christmas Prince appeared, a warmly lit tale as old as time (and one we conveniently see unfolding across the pond right now). Just as the song goes, “We need a little Christmas.” It’s not about Christmas, per se, it’s about the joy of the holiday season the permeates the fluffy popcorn flick flourishing despite the current clime. As to whether or not there will be a sequel, you can be sure that Refinery29 has reached out to Netflix for comment. The viewing public needs to know how Amber and Richard plan to make this trans-Atlantic marriage work, given that Harry and Meghan couldn’t without her relocating.
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