I couldn’t sleep last night, so I watched A Christmas Prince on Netflix.
This is one of the popular streaming service’s first attempts at producing a romantic holiday movie, and I hate to admit that I loved it. But, first, you should know that I am biased. When it comes to low-budget, kissing-in-a-light-snowfall-on-Christmas-Eve flicks, I am weak. A broken man, really. I can’t resist a story about two opposites — maybe a local baker and an uptight marketing executive? — falling in love to a jazzy rendition of “Silver Bells” playing in the background.
This was not always me. For a long time, I was the sort of guy who insisted Die Hard, the blood-soaked Bruce Willis action movie, was the best Christmas movie ever because the hero puts a Santa hat on a dead bad-guy and writes “Now I Have A Machine Gun Ho, Ho, Ho,” on his sweater in red magic marker. Yes, I was that dude. You can find men like that at any holiday party. But then I started spending my winter vacation in Texas with my mother.
For the past 10 years, I have spent the days leading up to December 25th watching Christmas-themed romantic comedies on cable television with my mom. Initially, for a few years, I resisted watching movies with titles like Deck The Halls With Lots Of Dates or Hunks For The Holidays. They’re always about spunky single moms in small New England towns, or overworked professionals in New York City, falling in love during the holiday season with nice guys in sweaters who turn out to be secret millionaires or secret best-selling novelists. Mistletoe features in the plot of 80 percent of these movies.
The first few years I fought her. “Let’s watch Die Hard,” I’d insist. And then my sweet, dear old mom would softly say, “If that’s what you really want, dear.” And, to make a long story short, we’d end up watching a movie about two people who run rival coffee shops or bookstores and fall in love at Christmastime. In the beginning, I’d be relieved when the mismatched heroes finally kissed in the snow because it meant that the end credits were coming. I soon learned, however, that there was always another movie just like it coming on next, and another after that, and another after that.
Watching these movies was like being put in a headlock by Santa himself — until I surrendered. And surrender I did. After years and years of watching these movies, I have softened to the point that I actually enjoy their simple, mawkish, formula. A famous chef teaches a widow how to love again and bake Christmas cookies! She’s a holiday-hating workaholic and he’s a free-spirit who runs an orphanage, and you can bet she loves the holidays by the end of the movie! This magic pinecone gets a divorced couple back together! These movies are like old, familiar blankets and I’ve come to enjoy wrapping myself up in them.
I never associated Christmas with romance before my exposure to these cable TV stalwarts. This holiday, for me at least, was always about excited children and wonderful memories of waking up Christmas morning and sprinting to the tree, freshly populated with new gifts. But now I know the holiday season is also a enchanted time when lovelorn mopes get lucky.
Which brings me to A Christmas Prince. I watched this movie for two reasons: When I can’t sleep, I stream things late into the night, and, secondly, as I have mentioned, I have a soft spot for this film genre. If you’re a fan of candy-cane-sweet love stories, you won’t be the least bit disappointed by A Christmas Prince. I have already admitted my cultural Stockholm Syndrome, though. So I want to be clear: A Christmas Prince is not a good movie. It’s just a movie that I, personally, enjoyed. So if you’re up at 1am and like hastily made, howlingly bad movies full of plot holes, soap-opera-quality dialogue, and shots of wet eyes staring lovingly at other sets of wet eyes, then this movie is for you, too.
I don’t know if there’s any point in writing about the plot, which is all in the title: The movie is set during Christmas and it’s about a prince. It opens in New York City (although there are establishing shots of Chicago thrown in because making movies is expensive), where we meet Amber, a junior editor at a magazine that is never named, but could easily be named Beat Now or Now Beat. Amber is just a struggling journalist trying to do the journalism all day long until her laughably obnoxious boss gives her a big break: Take an international flight to attend a press conference in the faraway (and totally made up) country of Aldovia, where their scandal-plagued playboy prince is going to announce whether or not he’ll abdicate the throne.
There are a lot of people complaining about how Amber’s journalism career isn’t realistic, but you have to understand that we’re dealing with a movie that takes place in a country that’s a weird cross between Switzerland and England. I don’t want to get too inside baseball here: I, too, have been a young editor at a magazine. There is nothing remotely realistic about these scenes with Amber: No editor anywhere would ever be flow internationally to cover a press conference about any royal. There is also nothing ethical about what Amber does once she gets there, which is impersonate a tutor and sneak into the royal castle. But who cares about these details? This is A Christmas Prince, not A Very Woodward and Bernstein Christmas.
Anyway, spoiler alert: Amber and the Prince fall in love. There is no doubt about this. Love conquers all — even the differences between two people from different sides of the tracks, or the ocean, or socio-economic levels. Maybe it is this certainty that makes this kind of movie so popular? That love is an immutable and infinite force constantly pushing two people together? Which is, of course, a lie. But it’s a beautiful lie. I mean, Christmas is a grand, forgivable lie, too. If we didn’t spend a few short moments during wintertime wishing each other well and celebrating family and friends, we’d probably murder each other in the cold, dark night.
A Christmas Prince is only 92 minutes long, but it packs in an adorable Tiny Tim-like princess, a pair of evil, scheming Game of Thrones rejects, and a climactic scene concerning the finer points of Aldovia’s parliamentary procedures. Plus, Amber and Prince Handsome (But Not Too Handsome) kiss during a light snowfall in the streets of New Yorcago.
I finished the movie around 2am and immediately went to bed. Visions of sugar plums making out danced in my head. In a few days, I’ll be snuggled up on the couch with my mom watching hours and hours of movies about love and Christmas. I think she’ll really like A Christmas Prince. I may have protested too much earlier: I learned to love these sappy Christmas movies mostly because my mom loves them. I resisted at first, but then gave up because love may be immutable and infinite, but I am not and neither is she.