Nothing says “Christmas” quite like a royal wedding in a fictional European country—or at least that seems to be the logic behind Netflix’s latest holiday movie, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding. It’s a sequel to the aptly-titled A Christmas Prince, which was released last holiday season.
As the Washington Post pointed out last year, the original Christmas Prince seemed far more appropriate for Hallmark or Lifetime (no shade) than Netflix, with a tired setup (the lowly but beautiful commoner inadvertently captures the heart of a minor European royal after some flirtatious shenanigans and a case of mistaken identity), massive plot holes, a cast ripped straight from the CW, and low-budget ideations of royal glamour. Amber Moore, a frustrated copy editor-turned-journalist at Now Beat magazine (yes, really), is sent on assignment to the fictional European country of Aldovia (perhaps a neighboring country to The Princess Diaries’ Genovia), and ends up, after being mistaken for a member of palace staff, catching the eye of Prince Richard. In addition to falling in love with a prince, Amber seems poised to catch her big break as a journalist, having gotten the scoop of the century through her undercover “work” at the palace. Unfortunately, her editors end up (rightly) dismissing her fawning profile of Richard as a puff piece, but hey, at least she’s got a prince for a fiancé!
A Christmas Prince, politely speaking, appeared destined for the annals of failed Netflix movies—that is, until a tweet from the streaming service about the movie went viral.
Aside from the fact that it’s creepy as hell that Netflix has access to this type of user data, it also seemed strange that the service would denigrate one of its own movies (A Christmas Prince was produced by Netflix) and the users who watch it. While an all-out debate about internet privacy began raging in the replies section, the tweet quietly started a phenomenon, drawing more attention to the low-budget film in all its cringe-worthy goodness. And thus, a bad movie obsession was born, just in time for Christmas.
Much like other cult favorite disaster-piece The Room, A Christmas Prince soon garnered a loyal following after the Netflix tweet. People on social media seemed to agree on one thing: the movie was absolute garbage. But that didn’t stop A Christmas Prince from becoming a cultural phenomenon, apparently popular enough to spawn a sequel just in time for this year’s holiday season.
A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding opens on a shot of Amber alone in her New York City apartment, typing away at her laptop like a wannabe Carrie Bradshaw, sans cigarettes and killer fashion sense. She’s apparently no longer working for Now Beat, and is instead a blogger, chronicling her whirlwind engagement to Prince Richard online. A bizarre and dizzying montage of passports, flights and airports quickly follows, to show that, yes, Amber is a very busy person and flies on planes quite a lot. Speaking of travel, she’s about to return to Aldovia for her wedding to Richard and to celebrate the holidays with the royal family. Tagging along for the trip is her father Rudy, a stereotypically hardboiled New York diner owner who sounds like a Brooklyn mobster from the 1940s, and frequently uses vintage slang words like “broad” and “dough” unironically.
Upon arriving in Aldovia, Amber is, unsurprisingly, confronted by a press scrum at the airport who want to hear more about her wedding to Richard and plans as future queen. Even though she herself worked as a journalist not too long ago, Amber is weirdly thrown off by the media’s very benign questions, and manages to escape in a “royal limo” (read: a plain BMW sedan) with her father and palace officials.
The bulk of the first half of the movie is concerned with Amber’s half-hearted attempts to put her own personal stamp on the rigid wedding plans, and adjust to strict palace protocol— neither of which she does particularly well. In between meetings with an almost-offensively-flamboyant wedding “designer” named Salil (he’s ostensibly from a South Asian country) and trying to sneak a kiss with her fiancé, Amber has to listen to her dad make unfunny jokes about Caesar’s Palace and coach Richard’s 11-year-old sister Princess Emily through her star turn in her school’s Christmas play.
Needless to say, it’s a lot to deal with, and is compounded by the fact that Aldovia is currently in the midst of a massive economic crisis and her husband-to-be is pretty damn stressed about it. People are losing their jobs left and right, despite Richard’s attempts at a “modernization initiative” that rubs a lot of older Aldovians the wrong way—and it turns out that someone is embezzling millions of euros from the companies tasked with rebuilding Aldovia’s economy. Amber’s journalistic instinct, if you want to call it that, is awakened, and she decides to go undercover to a local Aldovian bar a few days before her wedding to figure out what’s going on. A drunken worker tells her something’s not right with a company called Meadowlark; ever the intrepid journalist, Amber only jots down “Meadowlark” and “fishy” in her notes. It’s apparently enough for a lead, however, and just in time for the wedding, she uncovers the massive Ponzi scheme that’s draining Aldovia’s finances, and the now-disgraced royal adviser who masterminded the whole thing.
A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding very clearly cashes in on the furor surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement and nuptials earlier this year, and even apes some of the reported troubles Meghan has faced while adjusting to palace life. Recent reports reveal that Meghan has had difficulty adjusting to the palace meal schedule, for instance, where dinner is eaten as late as 10 p.m. on some nights, and is generally reluctant to conform to more meticulous palace rules. Likewise, in The Royal Wedding, Amber finds it difficult to adhere to stuffy palace protocol, which prohibits her from sharing personal photos of the royal family, and even demands that she give up her profession as a writer—something any successful career woman, regardless of royal status, would find difficult. But while in real life, Meghan and her sister-in-law Kate Middleton have begun to yield to palace protocol, Amber is able to negotiate a “modernization” of palace rules at the end of the film, thanks to a little help from her fiancé.
It’s not likely to win any Oscars, and might make you swear off Netflix originals for good, but A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding is earnest and good-natured in its cheesiness, so much so that it seems plausible the writers and directors were in on the joke this time. It’s cheesy, it’s cringey, but most importantly, it’s harmless—and worth a watch if you’re in the mood for some mindless holiday cheer.