Lights are up, the music is festive and we have something to look forward to after the hurdle of finals — it’s the holiday season again. As much as we all love the holidays for the family, friends and cheer, there’s another, somewhat overlooked aspect to getting into the Christmas spirit: cheesy Christmas movies. I’ll watch pretty much any movie that’s a) on Netflix and b) has “Christmas” in the title. This journey through the streaming provider’s Christmas catalogue recently brought me to “A Christmas Prince,” a movie that is not so much about Christmas as it is about subterfuge and royalty-commoner romance. Festive!
Now is as good a time as any to say that I didn’t enjoy this movie ironically. Okay — not that ironically. I’d call the cheesier bits “great” just for being cheesy, but I won’t go into those here. I’d rather use this space to tell you what I genuinely thought about “A Christmas Prince,” which is not Oscar-worthy, but is really fun. The Netflix original follows Amber (Rose McIver), a young journalist who gets assigned a story on the royal family of a (fictional) European nation, to be reported over the Christmas holiday. The country’s “playboy prince” Richard (Ben Lamb) hasn’t yet decided whether he will take his late father’s place on the throne, leaving his Christmastime coronation up in the air.
After an unhelpful press conference, Amber wanders the palace in search of another means of getting information, at which point she gets mistaken for the princess’ tutor and it becomes abundantly clear that no one who wrote this movie knows how journalism works. Amber agrees that, yes, she’s the tutor, and proceeds to spy on the royals and fool everyone but Princess Emily (Honor Kneafsey). It’s majorly unethical from both a career standpoint and, you know, the rules of basic human decency — but that plot point was a little tough to swallow in a year where the words “fake news” were tossed around again and again. Just saying. (I’ll stop harping now, but if you want to watch a movie that’s actually about journalism, try the documentary “Voyeur,” also a Netflix original and totally fantastic.)
I couldn’t tell you how long Amber’s charade actually lasts, because time is a flat circle in these movies. Maybe she’s there days, or weeks. In any case, she wins the prince’s trust and heart, and then gets saved from wolves. Seriously! Wolves! Not only is it a blatant rip-off of “Beauty and the Beast,” it’s also one of the most far-fetched moments in the type of movie that’s known for all but demanding in the dialogue that you suspend your disbelief.
You might be wondering what took this movie from “campy” to “genuinely entertaining.” First of all, Princess Emily, who’s about eleven or twelve, is the only reasonable character in the whole movie. Her defining characteristics are that she’s chronically ill and relatively sassy — she’s as two-dimensional as the rest of the characters, but her real saving grace is that she pretty much goes around saying exactly what we’re all thinking. She criticizes the patriarchal rules that say she can’t be next in line for the throne, and calls out Amber’s poor decision-making more than once. The best thing Emily facilitates, however, is a moment in which Amber gets a makeover for this huge ball (because of course there’s a huge ball). After getting a lot of odd looks around the palace for her Converse sneakers, Amber wears them yet again with an actual ball gown. For whatever reason, “I’ll wear your clothes with my shoes because I’m an individual” is a trope that has a special place in my TV-loving heart.
The movie also has family drama, plenty of false identities and classically slimey distant relatives who want to claim the throne for their own. With a whole dorms worth of Christmas lights decking the halls on the movie’s set, “A Christmas Prince” is exactly what you need during a study break this finals week.
I normally try to review things that I not only have opinions about, but that also have relevance to viewers beyond me, myself and I. “A Christmas Prince” is not one of those movies. It’s just mildly goofy, fairly predictable and yet, utterly enjoyable. It’s a watered-down version of “The Princess Diaries 2,” with heaps of Christmas vibes and (unfortunately) no Julie Andrews. But it will make you laugh (whether the writers meant for you to do so or not), and I think you deserve that this holiday season. Consider it my gift to you.