Fifty-three people are roasting on the open fire this holiday season, the scorched subjects of a tweet from Netflix that went viral last week reading, To the 53 people whove watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?
We groan-laughed at the tweet when it was sent. Now were annoyed, because it caused the streaming services atrocious holiday film to escalate in popularity to the point where we had to watch it to see what all the fuss is about. Its terrible. Its not even fun-terrible, in the way that all those Candace Cameron Bure movies that Hallmark created its own cottage industry out of.
Its 90 minutes of Prince Harry holiday fan fiction that feels 75 minutes too long.
Even the Christmas decorations are ugly.
Why is everyone watching this movie? Stop watching this movie!
Bad Christmas movies have become part of the litany of holiday season traditions that we convince ourselves we want and performatively enjoy for attention and Instagrams, like Christmas cookie-swaps and braving the crowd at the Rockefeller tree, but are actually torture. The only reward is a headache and latent nausea. By that measure, the saccharine, illogical romance of A Christmas Prince should be served with a chaser of Pepto-Bismol.
Why do we convince ourselves that this schmaltz is worth watching, even ironically? There are so many legitimately good Christmas movies for people to watch. Good movies that are actually on Netflix include: White Christmas, The Santa Clause, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even Bad Santa. What are we doing watching this shady journalist pratfall into a snow-kissed romance with a smarmy prince?
A Christmas Prince is proof of the #PeakTV theory that people will watch anything, as long as its on Netflix. See also: the fact that Fuller House is one of the most-watched TV series right now, and the people still trying to convince themselves that Stranger Things 2 was good.
The film basically lifts the plot from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and accepts the dare from the Princess Diaries producers to come up with a fake country name more ridiculous than Genovia. And thus aspiring journalist Amber is sent to Aldoviaughto get the scoop on the playboy prince who is waffling about taking over the throne. Would you believe they fall in love?
Its not even aspirationally cute, in the they were perfect for each other all along kind of way. When he finally proposes to her in the endis it technically a spoiler when its this obvious?she doesnt respond by swooning into an ecstatic yes; she immediately starts listing all the reasons why an engagement would make no sense and literally ruin her life.
The film opens with a jaunty Christmas song that sounds like Jingle Bell Rock but isnt, and a montage of B-roll from holiday moments in New York City. We meet Amber, a copy editor at a trashy magazine who is fed up with salvaging star writers copy instead of reporting out her own stories. But when no one else is available to travel to Aldovia to cover the drama surrounding the future kings coronation cold feet, she gets her big break.
When the prince doesnt show up for the press conference and all the other journalists go homeyes, apparently a New York-based magazine flew a junior reporter to a foreign country to cover a press conferenceshe sneaks into the palace, lies and says shes the young princesss tutor, and starts reporting from the inside.
Of all the offensive things in this movie, and this is a movie that uses a characters disability as a manipulative plot device, its portrayal of journalism is the most egregious. Yes, it truly is the season of the journalism movie, with The Post and now A Christmas Prince. One is about the necessity of the First Amendment to protect citizens from the tyranny of government. The other is about how its OK for a reporter to lie about her identity, so long as a salacious story is produced from it.
Her big scoop once shes on the inside is that the press has it all wrong about this royal family. Princess Emily, who is in a wheelchair because she has spina bifida, may act like a terror, but Amber sees her for who she really is: a self-conscious little girl who just wants to be normal. And the prince isnt a cad. Hes a good person. He plays with orphans! He doesnt like that being king would steal his attention away from his goodness and orphan-playing.
While pretend-tutoring Princess Emily, Amber falls in love with the prince, whose name I forgot but hes so bland its probably something like John or Mike. (Ah, its Richard.) He falls in love right back. He likes that shes a real girl. She wears Converse sneakers.
We learn along the way that Richard has been in love once before, to a snooty bitch named Lady Sophia who was only with him for attention and sold a story about him to the papers. She does not approve of Richards infatuation with Amber. Lady Sophia is the character with which I most identify.
But Amber and Richards love is impenetrable. They have snowball fights. They ride horses. They bond over dead parents. Things get complicated when Amber accidentally discovers that Richard was adopted, and thus cant be king. She doesnt know what to do. Should she break the story? The next 30 minutes are a tense battle between journalism and love.
There is an onslaught of annoying things that happen next, mostly revolving a handmade acorn Christmas ornament. The films only gay character and only black person are given some lines of dialogue. Everyone lives happily ever after.
All of this should be inoffensive. No scene lasts longer than 22 seconds. There is more jingle music than there is dialogue. None of the acting is discernibly bad. Yet there is something irritatingly shallow about the movie, even when considered as part of the shallow Christmas movie canon.
Theres no grand moral or life lesson either character has to learn. Theres not a lick of warmth or, really, romance. We said it before, but it bears repeating: even the Christmas decorations in the palace are ugly. If youre going to make a Netflix holiday movie, at least give us some decoration porn.