Whoever runs the Netflix twitter account has probably made it onto their bosses naughty list this year after causing a stir with the tweet “To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: who hurt you?”. This prompted a backlash of hurt viewers, who were concerned about their viewing privacy on the internet platform. While, on balance, this was probably just supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek remark that got out of hand, it does reflect two things. Firstly, even the people that commissioned and created this movie know it’s not great, and secondly, despite this, it’s clearly adored by some of its audience.
The movie follows aspiring New-York journalist, Amber Moore, who is sent on a mission to uncover the reason why the ‘playboy prince’ Richard has decided to abdicate his right to the throne of Aldovia. If you’re wondering where this is, my guess is it’s probably right next to The Princess Diaries’ Genovia; another made-up nation somewhere in Europe, where, naturally, everyone speaks with a British accent. The conclusion of the movie is sign-posted from a mile away. However, in a formulaic rom-com such as this one, if the characters are interesting enough and the script witty enough to sustain your attention, you’ll enjoy getting there anyway. Unfortunately, this is where A Christmas Prince falls short.
TV Junkies, like myself, will recognise leading lady Rose McIver as the adorable brain-eating Liv Moore from IZombie. Her British counterpart Ben Lamb, is probably best known for drama The White Queen, and his brief turn in Divergent. The chemistry between the two main actors doesn’t bowl you over but they do a competent job of selling it. Unfortunately for Rose McIver, the character of Amber is a very typical bland romantic heroine. She is under-appreciated at work but lacks the gumption to do much about it, she’s kind and she’s pretty but seemingly unaware of it – cue a last-minute makeover scene. All in all, she’s nice but not particularly interesting, and that’s exactly how McIver ends up playing her.
Similarly, Prince Richard is everything you expect from a typical romantic hero. He’s a bad-boy turned good who is unforgivably rude during the character’s first meet-cute but soon proves he’s actually a pretty decent guy. He’s an equally flat character and naturally, Lamb struggles to bring much more to him. Honor Kneafsky puts in a decent performance as the prince’s younger sister Emily, who suffers from Spinal Bifida. Of all the characters, she’s the most fleshed-out and actually develops over the course of the movie.
However hard the actors try to bring credibility to their roles, they really struggle against the screenplay which is a mish-mash of Hollywood clichés and slapstick humour. ‘There is nothing loose about this goose’ and ‘you gotta listen to your heart, it’ll always tell you the truth’ are both examples of the clunkers offered up by the dialogue. Amber actually explains the meaning of the word ‘schmaltz’ to Richard at one point, which I can only assume was a self-referential nod to the audience. This film is schmaltz defined, but in its defence, it never attempts to be anything else.
One thing Netflix has done particularly well is shoot it for the small screen. The cinematography of snow-covered mountain-tops and the fairy-light covered castle, are suitably wintry and work well on a laptop. It’s unusual for a platform, that tends to make very cinematic television, to have crafted such televisual cinema. But for what is essentially the 2017 equivalent of a low-budget TV or straight-to-video movie, it’s very suitable.
In the vein of movies like Never Been Kissed, or the royalty-themed The Prince and I, and aforementioned Princess Dairies, it’s probably best aimed at a young teenage audience as they will most likely enjoy it. It’s a well-timed substitute for those of us who are still waiting for the Prince Harry to our Megan Markle, to fall in love with us and whisk us away to the royal life we should be living. If you’re a sucker for festive clichés, heart-warming plots, sleigh rides and horseback riding in the snow, then this film will get you in the Christmas mood. However, if you want anything more than that from your cinema, I’d give this one a miss and stick Love Actually on for the 100th time instead.
– Sarah Roberts
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