Film Review: A Christmas Prince

When a reporter goes undercover as a tutor to get the inside scoop on a playboy prince, she gets tangled in some royal intrigue and ends up finding love - but will she be able to keep up her lie?  •1.5/5

(Maltese?) star-crossed: Ben Lama and Rose McIver in Netflix’s attempt to capitalise on seasonal schmaltz
(Maltese?) star-crossed: Ben Lama and Rose McIver in Netflix’s attempt to capitalise on seasonal schmaltz

The plan was to finally get around to watching Yorgos Lathmios’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Honestly – it was my priority to finally get down to the weird, wonderful and confrontational Greek filmmakers’ latest, which by all accounts promised to be a dark but grudgingly rewarding odyssey into the darkest recesses of our psyche, in what appears to be yet another step on the rung to Lathmios’ unlikely – but warmly welcomed – ascent into the international arthouse-mainstream (contradiction in terms for you there, but there we are).

Well, best-laid plans and all that. That was the idea, but then I fell violently ill. And the last thing that both my psyche and my body could handle was a) a physical trip to the cinema and b) the necessary tenacity and bloody-mindedness to first endure, then enjoy whatever Lathmios had to offer.

The experience would have to be shelved. So I stayed home, and flipped through the latest Netflix releases to see what I could justify chatting about here. While we’re at it, why not go for something seasonal, I reasoned.

Settling in on A Christmas Prince, directed by Alex Zamm and starring iZombie’s Rose McIver, I soon began to wonder whether The Killing of a Sacred Deer would not, in fact, have been the kinder option for my beleaguered predicament.

And as it happens, our protagonist in A Christmas Prince, Amber Moore (McIver) is also a beleaguered journalist. Toiling away at a gossip rag where she’s subjected to unforgivable indigities like being asked to shrink down puff pieces from 600 words to 300 (!), she longs for a big scoop that will win her the respect of her tough-as-nails editor, Max Golding (Amy Marston).

As luck would have it, the Christmas season does bring a professional boon for Amber – the opportunity to attend a press conference at the distant (and entirely invented) Eastern European kingdom of Aldovia, where everyone mysteriously speaks in perfect BBC English and where – most importantly – its handsome but reluctant king-in-waiting, Prince Richard (Sam Lamb) might just abdicate the throne following his father’s death.

Rose McIver
Rose McIver

Hoping to get a juicier scoop after the conference turns out to be something of a bust, Amber actually manages to inveigle herself into the daily affairs to the royal family, after she successfully tricks them into believing that she is, in fact, an American tutor sent to help the prince’s sister, Emily (Honor Kneafsey), who suffers from spina bifida and who has something of a bad history with all her former teachers.

But Amber’s professional resolve begins to waver after Emily actually begins to warm to her. And of course, after her erstwhile subject reveals himself to be a sensitive, haunted soul – with matinee idol good looks to boot – and not the flaky playboy that the tabloids would have you believe. But the scheming of the prince’s ambitious cousin Count Simon (Theo Devaney) and his ex-girlfriend Baroness Sophia (Emma Louise Saunders) threaten to put a spanner in just about everybody’s works.

A Christmas Prince sounds, looks and feels like the kind of product wheeled out with a slapdash efficiency just in time for the Christmas season. It is Netflix’s bald attempt at capitalising on our increased tolerance for cliché and schmaltz during this particular time of year. Which would have been fine, had it all been put together with tighter engineering.

As it stands – or rather, shakes like a badly-planted Christmas tree – its nature as a hash-job is evident in each frame. An early establishing shot of New York is clearly littered with Chicago landmarks, and subsequent establishing shots of Aldovian architecture are clearly filmed miniatures. Even inside, the sets look dull, even if a lot of the interiors were filmed on-location in a Romanian castle. Certainly not a great way to create the coveted atmosphere of Christmas magic. And while McIver does her best to make Amber a plucky, sympathetic heroine, irrational and lazily-written tics (she insists on wearing her Chucks at royal events!) hamper her efforts, as does her chiselled-but-bland love interest.

While A Christmas Prince already appears to be generating “so bad it’s good” status online – just Google it – you probably already have your holiday favourites to rewatch. And the likes of The Man Who Invented Christmas and Star are still screening in local cinemas should you crave something new, that is probably miles better than this cheaply constructed, badly-plastered papier-mâché creation.

 

A Christmas Prince is currently streaming on Netflix

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