Earlier this month, Netflix used its Twitter feed to neg viewers of its own holiday programming.
This seems unnecessarily cruel. You like what you like. Times are dark, Netflix! Who are we to judge what makes people happy?
I could not get that tweet out of my head, though, which is how I also became one of the people watching A Christmas Prince. Aside from the dreadful reality that social-media marketing actually works, here’s what I learned by taking a trip to Aldovia this holiday season.
We open in the offices of Now Beat magazine (yes, that is its name), where our heroine, Amber Moore, is frustrated with her job as a lowly junior editor stuck fixing other people’s writing rather than producing her own.
While her colleagues get to write fun celebrity lists, poor Amber is in a prison of perpetually cutting about 300 words.
It looks like Amber’s luck has finally turned, because her editor assigns her to cover the coronation of the new King of Aldovia! He’s a playboy type who’s reluctant to take the throne, but his coronation has to happen on Christmas Day for reasons unexplained, so Amber better hop on a plane ASAP.
Amber says good-bye to her widowed, diner-owning father, but as soon as she lands in Aldovia, a European country where everyone speaks English, some random jerk steals her cab.
A newly minted member of the royal press corp, Amber arrives at the palace full of energy to get the goods on the playboy prince, but he’s a no-show at his own press conference. Amber’s no fool — she can’t give up this opportunity to get a good story. So instead of hoping back on the press van, she sneaks into the castle to dig for some dirt. She takes many admiring photos of a room that is, frankly, not especially impressive.
But then she’s caught by the royal family’s gatekeeper, Mrs. Averill. What is an intrepid young reporter who’s definitely committing an act of trespassing to do? Turns out, Mrs. Averill is not great at her job, and lets an excuse just fall into Amber’s lap.
So Amber plays along in her new role, tutor Martha Anderson, and is led into a private audience with the Queen of Aldovia. Guess who else is there? It’s the jerk who stole her cab, wearing an unbelievably bad beard! And you will not believe this, but actually, he’s the prince!
She also meets the princess whom she’ll be tutoring: young Emily, whose disability due to spina bifida is the entire outline of her character. She’s like a cross between an early Von Trapp child and Colin from Secret Garden, and she transforms from bratty broken princess to heart-of-gold cherub over the course of roughly 20 minutes.
Amber is not great at curtseying, turns out.
She also has to follow the “heroine is a klutz” trope, because otherwise how would we relate to her? Ha, she breaks things! She’s just like me. Side bar: Is it possible to break something in a fancy house that’s not a 15th-century Ming vase? If there are so many Ming vases lying around that someone breaks one every time they have to be a klutz in a fancy house, are they really that rare? Food for thought.
That night in her room, Amber checks in with her editor to see if this whole “lying to the royal family so I can get dirt on them” situation is fine. Her editor says yes!
She continues to (barely) hold it together in front of Mrs. Averill. She also has to dodge the rocky territory of tutoring Princess Emily, who kicks off her first day by leaving a mouse on her chair, drawing a mean picture of Mrs. Averill, and asking very direct questions.
But then Amber and Emily take a walk outside, where they happen upon Prince Richard doing a spot of archery. He sucks! Emily, in spite of having very little upper-body strength and being tiny, gets a bullseye. Amber, when given the opportunity to try, once again ruins priceless palace artwork.
As it happens, Amber’s bluntness and refusal to treat Princess Emily like she’s a mascot endear her to the bratty princess, who invites her to a royal cocktail party. She is happy to go, but she’s intimidated by the food, and now I just need to pause for a moment. The food Amber finds so off-putting is “jellied meats,” and it’s offered to her on a dinner plate, skewered with neon plastic cocktail toothpicks. Neon plastic toothpicks? What kind of royal palace is this?! Did they run out of the classy ones and have to borrow from the nearby dive bar? Did the late King Richard do a bulk order for a party back in college, and they’re still trying to get through the box?
It’s hard for me to move on from the jellied meats, but alas, there is plot in this next scene. At the cocktail party, we meet Evil Cousin Simon, who we discover is next in line for the throne if Richard decides to abdicate rather than take the crown. To no one’s surprise, Simon is very thirsty for the power, and also a twit.
After the cocktail party, Amber checks in with her friends from back home, who are thrilled about the gossip and all the illegal activity she’s doing to earn a subsistence wage from Now Beat.
Throughout all this, Amber keeps very careful notes on her computer about everything that’s going on. Obviously, she is an excellent, careful, thoughtful journalist whose penchant for illegal activity is topped only by her tendency to ask herself rhetorical questions in a Notes app that clearly says “0 words” at the bottom.
Amber attends a royal Christmas-tree-decorating party, where the queen hangs a handmade acorn ornament that the late king had hidden in a secret place. I am sure those are two small plot points that will never return again!
We also meet the next obstacle in Amber’s path toward love and marrying someone with health care: Lady Sophia, who’s obviously here to glom onto Prince Richard, and makes him hang up the heart ornament she brought in case anyone’s bad at subtext.
To ratchet up the tension even further, Princess Emily finds out Amber’s real name … and that she’s a journalist! She may be a token damaged weak moppet, but she’s no dummy.
Amber has a few, ahem, exciting encounters with Prince Richard, and gets closer to Princess Emily. Lady Sophia tells Richard she’s still in love with him, which he mostly ignores. Amber wears a pageboy hat to a benefit speech, where Richard is again a no-show because he’s too busy playing with orphans. Amber takes Princess Emily sledding even though she’s weak and damaged, and everybody has fun. The queen makes a sledding innuendo.
The next big set piece has Prince Richard going out for a ride on his pitch-black royal steed, and Amber decides to hop on a nearby abandoned horse who happens to just be standing there right next to a saddle. (Sure!) But while trying to follow him, she gets lost in the woods and attacked by wolves. Aldovia: where everyone speaks English, the royal family can’t afford decent cocktail skewers, and wolves literally encircle the castle.
Prince Richard rescues Amber from the wolves on his fairy-tale black horse and takes her away to his man-cave hunting lodge, which is absolutely decked out in antlers and leather. (Prince Richard may have some hobbies, if you know what I’m sayin’.) There, drinking whiskey in front of the fireplace, Richard and Amber finally get personal: He shares his fear of the paparazzi and his own poor-rich-man self-pity, and he shows her his late father’s journals, which include a Very Secret and Indecipherable Riddle that’s obviously saying, “Hey, look inside the giant handmade acorn ornament, you dummy.”
Neither of them pick up on that clue, but Amber does turn a magic lever when Prince Richard isn’t looking and discovers a trove of secret documents! Also, they allllllmost kiss.
The secret documents reveal that Prince Richard was actually adopted. There’s no way he can actually become king now!
Amber isn’t sure what to do. She needs this scoop, but she doesn’t want to ruin Richard’s life, especially after they go for a walk together and do kiss. Happily, Evil Cousin Simon and Lady Sophia sneak into her room and find the documents anyhow.
Cut to the Christmas Eve coronation, where Amber has gotten a makeover from a team provided by Princess Emily but still insists on wearing her red Converse sneakers.
She and Richard dance, the coronation begins, and then, for some reason, the ceremony includes a bit where you can object as though it’s a 19th-century wedding and they’re all inside Jane Eyre? Needless to say, the Thirsty Twins are all over that.
Amber’s true identity is revealed, Cousin Simon claims the throne for himself, and Lady Sophia immediately marries him (?!).
A sad, dejected Amber goes to the airport to fly back to the states. But wait! The poem Old King Richard left for Richard, which she suddenly understands! She races back to the castle, confronts some guards, convinces Averill to let her in, and immediately finds a codicil to the Aldovian constitution (?!?) inside the acorn. Amber and Averill crash Simon’s coronation, read the constitutional amendment out loud, plunk the crown down on Richard instead, and Amber then flies back to New York, all ready to start her career as a journalist with her excellent royal intrigue piece.
Her editor, however, is not thrilled with her writing.
Amber. Is. Done. She went to flipping Aldovia, for crying out loud! She was attacked by wolves! She’s going to self-publish this sucker.
And guess what? While celebrating New Year’s Eve with her beloved Pop, she looks out the window to see …
Richard found his way back to her, thanks to Princess Emily! And then he says something that many normal people have often found themselves saying aloud in a totally natural way.
Now-King Richard proposes marriage, which is an absolutely reasonable thing to do when someone has lied to you and infiltrated your family under false pretenses, and also stole a horse one time.
Amber thinks about it for a minute.
And then she says yes! They kiss for literally the second time. Happy New Year to the royal family of Aldovia, and also to Amber, who can now pursue her career as a journalist without a crushing dread of looming poverty.