With the premiere of the third installment in the A Christmas Prince trilogy, Netflix proves that it wholly underestimated the appeal of its terrible holiday movie canon back in 2017 when it tweeted, “To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: who hurt you?” Two years later, Queen Amber and King Richard of Aldovia have earned enough eager fans to justify the production of two follow-up films—last year’s A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding and now, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby.
The main cast of monarchs is back, with American journalist-turned-queen Amber (Rose McIver) and King Richard (Ben Lamb) at the helm. Directed by John Schultz, the film also introduces the royal family of another made-up country, Penglia, because there is an unspoken rule that all fictional European kingdoms must end in the letters “-ia” à la Aldovia, Belgravia (The Princess Switch) and Genovia (The Princess Diaries). As with the previous two films, the plot is so nonsensical that it’s almost entirely exposition. From Amber’s blog posts detailing everything that has happened since The Royal Wedding to characters reading documents and saying thoughts out loud even though no one else is in the room, The Royal Baby disregards the “show, don’t tell” rule of storytelling.
The basic premise, as the title indicates, is that Richard and Amber are expecting their first child together on the one-year anniversary of their wedding, which of course, is Christmas. Coinciding with the baby shower and the holidays is the centennial renewal of a 600-year-old peace treaty with neighboring ally Penglia. However, when the Penglian royals arrive—stern traditionalists King Tai (Kevin Shen) and Queen Ming (Momo Yeung)—they find the treaty has been stolen. To make matters worse, Amber and Richard’s first-born child will apparently be cursed if they don’t find and sign the treaty by Christmas Eve, because why not add magic to this improbable clusterfuck of a movie.
It is not worth explaining how any of this gets resolved, because I have already forgotten the details and I only watched the movie a few hours ago. Putting her investigative journalist background to good use, Amber figures out who stole the treaty just in the nick of time, apparently all off-camera because we never get to see any of her detective work, and then she explains it to everyone else in a monologue mid-labor.
The anticlimactic confrontation with the thief is jaw-droppingly lazy, as King Richard demands with a scowl, “If you’re guilty [name redacted, because spoilers], confess to this here and now” and then the thief confesses, just like that. I wonder if the FBI knows about this foolproof method of asking a suspected criminal if he did the crime. Amber, satisfied that her baby won’t be cursed and unconcerned about soiling the presumably expensive royal sheets, then gives birth right there in her extravagant bed.
A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby gets right what other cheesy Netflix holiday fare, like the Vanessa Hudgens-led The Knight Before Christmas, often get wrong. It takes a no-holds-barred approach to absurdity, allowing viewers to delight in the campy overacting, awkward jokes plucked straight from a Saturday Night Live parody, and dialogue that does not even remotely resemble how humans interact.
For example, Amber’s diner-owning dad refers to Aldovia, the country over which his daughter has reigned for a full year, as Aldovania, prompting her to sigh, “You still can’t say it right.” The idea that Amber’s doting widower father can’t remember the name of the country she is queen of encapsulates the bizarre accidental humor of the film, the kind of humor that could have been written by a very intelligent bot after watching hours of Hallmark movies. The joke is not that it’s funny to hear bumbling Rudy mispronounce Aldovia in his thick New York accent; the joke is that the filmmakers thought this would seem like a plausible father-daughter interaction.
And then of course the funniest moments are the ones that are supposed to be the gravest, like when heavily-pregnant Amber shoots a bullseye with a bow and arrow while simultaneously fainting into Richard’s arms or when an errant owl streaks across a dashboard out of nowhere, causing a minor car wreck. My personal favorite, though, is when King Richard, while urgently riding his horse through the woods, hears wolves howling in the distance and says defiantly to no one is particular (or to the wolves, maybe?), “Not tonight.”
As fans of the Christmas-themed rom-com genre are already well-aware, suspension of disbelief is essential to watching A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby. It’s best not to probe too deeply into why everyone in this snowy European country speaks perfect English with British accents, or how the entire royal family can walk around the local Christmas Market together unbothered, without civilians mobbing them or a security detail to protect them. When the king of Aldovia and the king of Penglia roll up their sleeves to assemble an IKEA crib for the baby together, don’t question why someone else isn’t building it for them, or why the royal heir’s crib isn’t fancier. They are just two monarchs-slash-buddies doing manual labor in the name of foreign diplomacy.
The Royal Baby is a hilarious, so-bad-it’s-good (well maybe not good, but definitely entertaining) mess that will leave viewers wondering, “What did I just watch?” and “Does Netflix plan to make a new one of these every year for the rest of Rose McIver’s life?” To that I say: we should only be so lucky.