There are only two things I want starting on December 1: To bake all the Christmas cookies (don’t worry, I share) and to watch as many cheesy holiday movies as I can until Christmas.
Last year, I watched A Christmas Prince a slightly shameful number of times, and apparently, I wasn’t alone. Netflix tweeted that 56 people had watched it 18 days in a row (I wasn’t one of them, I swear).
To the 53 people who've watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?
— Netflix US (@netflix) December 11, 2017
In my defense, this rom-com combines all of my favourite things: royalty, over-the-top Christmas magic and journalism (hey, as a writer, I love when a movie features a plucky journo). You didn’t watch this Netflix masterpiece? Here’s what you missed: Rookie reporter Amber Moore is sent all the way to the fictional country of Aldovia to cover mysterious Prince Richard’s coronation (please note no newsroom would ever do this in real life). To get closer to the royal, she pretends to be his younger sister’s tutor and—spoiler alert—a royal romance ensues.
Needless to say, I was very excited when Netflix announced it would be releasing A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding on November 30. After getting up at 4 a.m. to watch the other two royal weddings this year, I was looking forward to sitting back and enjoying Amber and King Richard’s festivities at my leisure. Who would design Amber’s gown? (Personally, I was hoping she took inspiration from Princess Eugenie.) Would her Pop pull some Thomas Markle-level drama before the wedding? And would King Richard romantically pick the flowers for Amber’s bridal bouquet like Harry did for Meghan? I couldn’t wait to find out.
But I got none of these things from A Christmas Prince sequel. No royal wedding fun. No Christmas magic. Instead, this movie just left me feeling sad.
It’s not a romance, it’s a poorly done political movie
Somewhere between A Christmas Prince and A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding, Richard became a Dick.
In the Netflix sequel, there’s a vaguely political crisis occurring in Aldovia involving something about workers’ wages and modernization that has the newly-crowned King Richard preoccupied in the lead up to the wedding. When Amber asks if she can help, he tells her that the wedding will keep her busy enough. I know the monarchy is a bit old-fashioned, but that line made me clutch my pearls. As we learned in the first film, Amber is a smart and capable woman who can multitask—and King Richard best learn to respect that.
And it just gets worse. Royal protocol continues to strip Amber’s identity from her and instead of fighting for his fiancée, Richard just stands there, useless, and lets courtiers dictate what Amber can and can’t do—she can’t wear the necklace her dad gave her in the couple’s official portrait, she can’t continue writing her blog, she can’t go to a bar for her bachelorette.
At one point, the couple is informed, “I’m afraid Miss Moore does not understand her role in the royal family.” And what does Richard do? Nothing. Amber at this point has had enough and yells “Really, Richard?!” and stomps out of the palace. And TBH, I was ready to walk on out of this mess with her.
With the poorly-delivered political storyline dominating the movie, there is little room left for romance. Now, I don’t think these cheesy holiday movies all have to follow the same plot line—in fact I welcome when they change things up and deviate from the typical love story. Christmas Everlasting is a new release from Hallmark and not only is the cast predominantly Black (finally some diverse representation in this genre!), but the movie also opens with a death (usually nothing bad happens in Christmas land). That film surprised and delighted me—and yes, it made me cry a lot of sad tears. But I still fell in love with the main couple.
I wanted A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding to do the same; be a breath of fresh air amidst all these interchangeable holiday stories. But it didn’t.
Amber is Meghan Markle, but not
In many ways Amber is a lot like the Duchess of Sussex. They’re both American. They both have blogs made more popular by dating handsome princes. That’s actually where the similarities end, but my hope was that this movie would be a fun behind-the-scenes look at the royal wedding—and that’s what the trailer promised. Bring on a bachelorette party with tiny finger sandwiches, an array of sparkly tiaras that Amber must choose from and the couple adorably feeding each other cake samples. Unfortunately, if you want these scenes, you should watch The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement because in the A Christmas Prince sequel, there is very little screen time dedicated to actually planning the royal wedding. (We do get to see Amber try on a truly awful gown—which could have been funny, if it weren’t for the over-the-top wedding planner who is a completely cringe-worthy caricature of an Indian person. Like, can we not?)
There was no Christmas magic
Do you remember when Prince Richard proposed to Amber in the snow in New York? Or when they shared their first kiss in the snow? Or when he saved her from a wolf attack, also in the snow? Those magical moments, dusted in snowflakes, made me fall in love with the first movie. That’s all I wanted from The Royal Wedding. I hoped for a scene of Amber and Richard baking cookies for the annual Aldovian Christmas baking challenge. Or going ice skating on some secret pond behind the palace. Really, I just wanted any sweet, stolen moments that make you grin at your screen.
It took a while, but after 70 minutes of wondering if The Royal Wedding should actually have been The Royal Split, Richard *finally* turns things around. In the hunting cabin (remember it from the first movie?), he apologizes to Amber and—without fully ruining the ending—let’s just say he finally puts her before the crown. As the couple finally kisses in the snow, I soaked in this long-awaited moment of Christmas magic—but it wasn’t enough to redeem this film.
All I want is a little candy cane-coated romance that I could watch on repeat until Christmas. Except, this whole movie felt stale. In every holiday film, the couple falls in love so incredibly fast (sometimes in a matter of days), so it makes sense that the sequel shows what happens after that honeymoon period ends and things aren’t quite as rosy anymore. But as a viewer, this movie was also a stark reminder of some of the problematic narratives in holiday movies that I’ve grown to love. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding was a sad dose of reality for Amber, Richard—and myself.
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