Rose McIver, Yellow Power Ranger, Zombie Coroner, and now a soon-to-be Princess of Aldovia. A Christmas Prince was not the first Christmas-themed movie released by Netflix, but it certainly started a franchise that has continued to this day (The Royal Treatment is the most recent film in what I have referred to as the Netflix Royal Christmas Universe, though it didn’t center on Christmas). A Christmas Prince, like so many of the other Christmas Royalty movies that have been released by Hallmark and Lifetime and other made-for-tv-film behemoths, has a simple plot at its heart. A young woman, in this case, an aspiring magazine reporter, is the only person they can send to cover an upcoming press conference from the Crown Prince of Aldovia, set to return from a whirlwind trip of debauchery and decadence – or so the world thinks. Amber Moore (Rose McIver), with her hilariously large notes on her laptop, is determined to succeed and finally get credit for her work. There’s just one problem, the conference is canceled with nary an explanation, and she is far too ambitious to simply sit back and leave without some kind of scope.
Reporters, am I right?
Before departing, we are introduced to a slew of important characters in Amber’s life – just not the initial storyline. These include one of her co-workers, Ron (Vaughn Joseph), who is dismissive of Amber’s efforts to copy-edit his work while also taking credit for her material and is not above fabricating quotes from people for events they did not attend and turns in work that is more than was asked and not even good – forcing Amber to have to rewrite it. On the other side, at work, Amber’s friends Melissa (Tahirah Sharif) and Andy (Joel McVeagh) – are they a sassy, wise black woman and a sassy, gay man? Yes. But I am here for them because sometimes you just need to get a foot in the door to better and more interesting storylines (they stayed around for the sequels and got theirs, alright?). Finally, we have Amber’s father, Rudy (Daniel Feathers), who owns and works at his bakery and encourages her to take the risk and go to Aldovia and prove her mettle as a reporter.
Amber, in her attempts to get her story, arrives and is almost immediately the victim of a cab-snatching incident – where a bedraggled man takes the car she had hailed. Her indignation at this sets the tenor for the beginning of her interactions with the Prince, the oh-so-shockingly revealed cab-snatcher. With rumors of abdication swirling around Aldovia, the press is hankering for the story – but the Prince is unwilling to meet their demands and cancels the press conference. It is here where the story begins to unfold, as Amber slips away from the group and ends up being mistaken for the expected American tutor, one Martha Anderson.
The Royal Family of Aldovia is struggling to come to terms with the death of their King, which is what brought Prince Richard (Ben Lamb) back home. He has to accept his destiny as the next King, or the throne will pass to another person in the family. Because, like many royal families, male-preference primogeniture is how things work, if Richard is not crowned, his cousin Simon (Theo Devaney) will be over Richard’s younger sister, Emily (Honor Kneafsey). But a mystery surrounds the film up until the climax on who will, or should, be the next King of Aldovia – Amber’s ambition and interest pave the way for a massive succession crisis that you don’t usually see in films like this. It is one of the reasons I watch it every year – even if there is simplicity to a film like this, you can see the depth if you pay close enough attention.
For example, due to the laws of Aldovia, Simon does have a claim to the throne – in fact, the only claim if Richard were to decide to actually abdicate. His attempts at sabotage, cartoonishly villainous as they might be, are also just political machinations. The reason we don’t side with him while watching the film is that this is not a high-stakes political drama. A Christmas Prince is an optimistic romantic comedy, which is why Simon’s plots and manipulations are equal parts hilarious and terrifying. The tone of the film allows for the gravity of it to hit us while also ensuring that we find the humor in the story. Of course, Simon won’t be King, that would fly in the face of the theme of a Christmas Prince movie – but that’s not the point. The point is the drama, and the tension, which works in the favor of offering the information Richard and Amber need in order to fulfill their character arcs.
One of the major forces in the film is Queen Helena Charlton (Alice Krige), who is struggling to get her son Richard to take his duty and his obligation to his country and family seriously. She is also working to help Emily, her youngest child who has spina bifida, to get an education after the hasty departure of her previous tutor. Standing in the way of happiness, though, is Lady Sophia (Emma Louise Saunders), the Prince’s ex, who is determined to be Queen and will do whatever it takes to get that crown. Even if it means betraying the prince himself. When compared to Simon, who, while buffoonish, had a legitimate claim to the throne (whether by law or belief), Sophia is simply after the crown for the crown’s sake. Perhaps this is why Sophia did not get to return for the sequels, but Simon did.
The story for A Christmas Prince is one of trust, love, friendship, and family – and how these things can seem at war with one another but are genuinely working towards unity rather than disunity. One of the key points the film hammers home with those topics is the theme of communication. If the characters communicate with one another honestly and openly, they can work through their problems and their differences and find solutions that can allow them to move forward in an uncertain world marked by death and tragedy, duty and obligation yet punctuated with the warmth of love and companionship.
It’s a Christmas film, after all – it has no choice but to be tied up with a silk ribbon at the end, and I am here for it for as long as Netflix is willing to churn them out.