Netflix UK film review: A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby
James R | On 07, Dec 2019
“I may be expecting and queen but I’m still a journalist!” cries Amber (Rose McIver) in A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby. The third in Netflix’s improbable yet inevitably holiday franchise, it reunites us with Amber as she settles into her role as Queen of Aldovia, the fictional kingdom that exists next to another fictional kingdom: Penglia. When we rejoin her and King Richard (Ben Lamb), they’re due to sign the 100-year renewal of their royal charter with Penglia. But tensions brew between them and the visiting Penglian rulers and the ancient charter scroll goes missing, it’s set to be far from a holly, jolly Christmas. And did we mention the curse there may or may not be upon the couple’s firstborn?
All of this, you might think, would be catnip for a journalist looking to dig into old secrets and national history to find out hidden truths and shocking revelations. Is there a mole in the Aldovian court? Will the two countries descend into war? And what gender will the royal baby be? But A Christmas Prince isn’t about investigative reporting, because it’s not about stories or events that actually happen: it’s a franchise geared solely around the idea of mashing up a royal drama with a Christmas romantic comedy.
And so, while that insta-cheese concept is a genuinely charming one – the first film in this trilogy is a bewildering delight – the further we get from that central notion, and the more the franchise has to come up with things for the characters to do, the flimsier the whole affair becomes. Can you remember the plot of A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding? Of course not. (Spoiler: It involved the exposing of a conspiracy to defraud the country of millions and leave society stuck in perpetual inequality – the stuff of holiday miracles.)
There are some nice callbacks for fans of the series, from one knowing nod to some wolves in the woods to an excursion into the Aldovian palace’s notoriously haunted dungeons. There’s even an archery contest. There’s also the inherent fun of seeing the cast battle with cliched dialogue that’s awkwardly amusing – one game you can play is trying to predict how many scenes will end with a character making a terrible joke and then everyone laughing unconvincingly for 5 seconds too long.
But the so-bad-it’s-good vibe can only go on for so long, and not even the introduction of Kevin Shen and Momo Yeung as the harmless King Tai and the eyebrow-arching Queen Ming can bring fresh variety to what is an all-too-familiar festive meal. And so we have the predictable arrival of Amber’s father, Rudy (John Guerrasio), despite supposed problems at the airport, the frosty smiles of Alice Krige’s Queen Helena, who now supports the couple and therefore provides no dramatic tension, and the witterings of petulant fashion designer Raj Bajaj’s Sahil to keep us going through the underwhelming courses. It’s telling, perhaps, that the most exciting surprise comes during a history lesson, when we learn that Aldovia is a neighbour to Belgravia, the kingdom featured in Netflix’s The Princess Switch. Now there’s something Amber the journalist could look into in the unavoidable fourth film. Or, better yet, forget the tortured sequels and give us a crossover event instead.
A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.