12 Days of Netflix: A Christmas Prince
James R | On 13, Dec 2017
Director: Alex Zamm
Cast: Rose McIver, Ben Lamb, Alice Krige
Watch A Christmas Prince online in the UK: Netflix UK
We unwrap a different Christmas film from Netflix’s dubious seasonal selection every day. For 12 days. It’s the 12 Days of Netflix.
“To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?” tweeted Netflix this week, sparking a fierce debate about privacy and data tracking (by a service that has turned data tracking into one of its USPs). What failed to be discussed, though, was the movie itself. Why did people watch A Christmas Prince every day for more than two weeks on the trot? And why would Netflix mock them for it, given it made the film itself? The answer to the second lies in Netflix’s initial question: Who hurt them? Every single other Christmas film ever made.
A Christmas Prince is a compilation album of the best bits from other seasonal flicks – you know, exactly the kind of movies that Netflix fills its shelves with every December. After several years of noting what people watch during the winter months, A Christmas Prince comes across like the streaming giant wrote a list of every scene in those films and ticked them off, one by one. Then hired the director of Hallmark’s A Royal Christmas and Jingle All the Way 2 (Alex Zamm) to shoot it.
Is it a tongue-in-cheek parody or a sincere homage to Hallmark? It’s impossible to tell, as the film treads the festive formula so carefully, without putting a foot wrong or stopping to wink at the camera. It’s simultaneously brilliant and rubbish – or, if you will, brubbish. The result is a tale as old as time: Girl gets job as reporter. Girl is assigned to cover the coronation of a playboy prince. Girl goes to fictional country for press conference (let’s call it Aldovia, because Genovia is already taken). Girls meets prince without realising it. Girl sneaks around castle. Girl ends up mistaken for the family’s new tutor. Girl finds herself falling for the prince while conducting fake lessons. Girl discovers scandal involving prince. Girl has to choose between her media career and him. Oh, and it’s Christmas.
There seems to be something about royals and Christmas that go together – less because of the Queen’s Speech, and more because A Royal Christmas did it, so A Christmas Prince has to do it too. And so we’re treated to all the usual set pieces and endearing hijinks that you expect from a fish-out-of-water-in-a-royal-castle scenario. There’s the bit where she knocks over a priceless vase. The bit where she has a cute snowball fight. The bit where she gets a makeover and dazzles a posh party. And the bit where she’s attacked by a wolf. Merry Christmas.
Rose McIver, whom you’ll know from the excellent iZombie, is typically great, but rather wasted in the lead role, which mostly requires her to sigh, look embarrassed, swoon a bit and briefly get attacked by a wolf. And let’s not even mention the fact that her journalist character never seems to write or publish anything. Fortunately, we’ve got the gorgeous prince to keep us occupied, right? Wrong. Ben Lamb (whose name almost sounds as fake as Aldovia) is desperately dull as the eponymous prince, conjuring up as much charisma as a Coldplay album cover. The film, to be fair, does try to make him attractive. The script calls him “his royal hotness”, although that can’t disguise his basic blandness. Later, we learn he plays the piano, as if that’s a substitute for anything interesting. He’s even first introduced to us with a beard, but that only makes him pale in comparison to Chris Evans.
The story itself is no more engaging, as Amber finds herself torn between concealing a family tree secret and stopping the prince being crowned king on Christmas Day – the fact that an evil cousin (Theo Devaney) is waiting in the wings to seize power tells you all you need to know about what plot twists are in store. Alas, even our villain is boring, boasting the sinister name of Simon. Throw in a subplot involving the prince’s younger sister, who has spina bifida, and Netflix is clearly hoping for a heartwarming melting pot of royal wedding excitement, it’s-what’s-inside-that-counts sentiment, and wolves. But the only fun to be found really lies with Star Trek’s former Borg Queen Alice Krige as the prince’s haughty, disapproving mum, who spends most of her time on set at the buffet cart, helping herself to as much ham as possible. Will Queen Helena turn out to be not as snobby as we first think? Will the prince fall for the commoner? And will the family’s actual tutor ever show up?
Your brain will have switched off before you can predict the results. And yet, and yet… there’s something so irrepressibly familiar about A Christmas Prince that it’s almost impossible to dislike: it’s harmlessly nice, cheerfully precision-tooled to meet every wish you could have for a cheesy Christmas movie, right down to the prince’s cruel would-be romantic interest, Lady Sophia (Emma Louise Saunders). A seasonal slice of cinema written by algorithm? Maybe Netflix’s data tracking isn’t such a bad thing after all, especially if it turns out to be a handy manual for becoming the next Meghan Markle (step one: lie to the prince about everything). Or maybe we’ve become so used to the streaming giant’s surveillance that Stockholm Syndrome has set in. Is A Christmas Prince a good film? No. Will we watch it again next Christmas? Almost definitely.
A Christmas Prince is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.