Spoilers ahead for Christmas Inheritance and A Christmas Prince.
This holiday season, Netflix is presenting you with a Robert Frost-ian conundrum. Two diverging paths you can take, essentially. They’re very similar — both have Christmas in the title and are all about tugging your heartstrings with the spirit of the holiday season — but with everything you’ve got going on at this time of year, what if you can only watch one? A Christmas Prince and Christmas Inheritance sound alike, but in reality, they’re so, so different. Yes, we’re being somewhat hyperbolic, but you need to make a choice here. Life comes at you quickly, and with it comes these two recent Netflix offerings that are straight out of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. The streaming giant has officially boarded the schmaltz train, and it’s pulling out of the station at hyper speed. Climb on board and find out which movie will fill you with Christmas spirit in the way you so desire.
The obvious similarities must be addressed first. As someone on the Refinery29 entertainment team pointed out, both movies star CW actresses from lesser-known shows with rabid fanbases. A Christmas Prince features Rose McIver, the star of iZombie. Eliza Taylor from The 100 is the protagonist in Christmas Inheritance. Taylor's stans are out in droves on Twitter. Both actresses are blonde-haired and wide-eyed. Even though Taylor plays a party heiress with a “bad reputation” (or so the movie keeps insisting; in reality she’s just a poor little rich girl trying to find her place in the world and be taken seriously) and McIver is an aspiring journalist, they both go through the same machinations when it comes to bumping into their love interests. In traditional rom-com form, they just can’t seem to keep it together during their meet-cutes. These supposedly self-assured women suddenly become hapless and bumbling, all in the name of being rescued.
McIver, who plays Amber Moore, knocks over vases and shoots arrows through windows, destroying palace property. Her paramour, Prince Richard (Ben Lamb) of fictional Aldovia (which yes, sounds just like The Princess Diaries’ Genovia), is gruff and off-putting during their first encounter. He steals her cab at the airport, and even though he’s not identified, you just feel it in your bones that this is going to be the man she eventually marries. That’s the kind of powerful kismet we’re dealing with here. A Christmas Prince doesn’t mess around with destiny.
Meanwhile in Christmas Inheritance land, Ellen Langford (Taylor) is undergoing her own fish-out-of-water tale. Her father, who owns a company that appears to sell the exact same things as a Hallmark store would (which is very coincidental seeing how these movies are essentially Hallmark Channel clones), ships her off to Snow Falls, a quaint, Stars Hollow-esque town a bus ride away from New York City. It’s there that she’s supposed to learn the true meaning of Home & Hearth Gifts and Christmas, all with a budget of $100 and no credit cards. It remains unclear what kind of modern-day hotel, no matter how small an enterprise, would let someone check in without a credit card, but I digress. The city girl steps off the bus in five-inch heeled knee-high boots (ideal footwear for a town that literally has snow in the name) and immediately bumps into someone carrying a Christmas tree. This sets off a chain of events that sends her suitcase careening into the road. Enter Jake Collins (Jake Lacy, adorable as ever), who’s driving a cab as a favor to the actual cab driver at the inn he manages. He’s all about doing things for others, and this is the first sign of his giving nature. He smashes into the suitcase and sends her lacy pajamas flying. Given that Ellen was only supposed to be in Snow Falls for a night or two, it’s confusing as to why she brought what essentially looks like honeymoon-level lingerie.
Both couples have a love/hate relationship at first, but it’s even more complicated in Christmas Inheritance because there’s the niggling little problem of Ellen’s fiancé Gray (Michael Xavier). He’s a massive jerk, obviously, who’s only interested in her when she’s the party heiress making headlines for her antics at Toys for Tots fundraisers. That’s not the real Ellen, though. Underneath it all, she’s a kind and understanding person who just needs to be taught the true meaning of charity and giving. This is where Christmas Inheritance veers away from the so-bad-it’s-good territory. It tries too hard to be a sincere movie, versus A Christmas Prince, which knows exactly what it is: An algorithmic mash-up of Lifetime and Hallmark movies combined with every ordinary-girl-meets-prince flick ever. Prince inserts absurd, winking details to demonstrate to the audience that it knows. Remember Amber’s hilarious notes about her investigative piece on the prince? She has to get to the bottom of the story. Dig deeper, Amber, dig deeper.
If you still haven’t decided whether to travel down the Christmas Prince road of absurdity versus the Christmas Inheritance slight grounding in reality, the deciding factor as to which movie you should watch boils down to how you like your schmaltzy movies to end. Do you like resolution, or are you okay with things completely stopping after the big kiss? A Christmas Prince has a definitive conclusion. After Richard travels all the way to New York — mysteriously sans bodyguards or paparazzi — to propose to Amber, they kiss, sure, but afterward they try to work out their intercontinental relationship. She’s still going to be able to pursue her career in journalism in New York (even though Meghan Markle is abandoning Hollywood completely to marry Harry), and he’s going to be the king of Aldovia. If Netflix deigns to give us a sequel — which, please, oh please, Netflix gods of programming — hopefully we’ll see the struggles involved in trying to make this type of relationship work. Amber is going to have to make the major sacrifices, right? How can the woman married to a king possibly continue her career as an investigative journalist. She couldn’t exactly go undercover anymore.
Christmas Inheritance, on the other hand, just ends with the kiss. After Jake forgives Ellen for her duplicitousness — just like in A Christmas Prince, she was pretending to be someone else — there’s no discussion about how they’ll make their Snow Falls-New York City relationship work. Jake once lived in New York, and he hated it. Ellen, on the other hand, is now the CEO of a New York-based company. Maybe she’ll have a little pied-à-terre to live in during the week so she can go to the office, and she can head up to Snow Falls on the weekend? Given how bad the weather is, it’ll probably be a rough commute. No matter; Christmas Inheritance doesn’t deal with the realities of the world. It’s all about the feel-good fuzzies you get when you learn how to be charitable. Ellen may be inheriting a company, but she’s also absorbing the holiday spirit of giving. And in the end, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
Ultimately, whichever one of these gems you decide to watch, you’re not wrong. After the 2017 we’ve had, Netflix has given everyone the gift of total escapism. For that, we thank them. Also, they’re totally in on the joke.
The upcoming award season is going to be a real nail biter. How will best picture voters ever choose between A Christmas Prince and A Christmas Inheritance?— Netflix Canada (@Netflix_CA) December 18, 2017
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