I love shitty movies.
Love ’em. Give me an Alien Apocalypse or a Dracula 3000 and I’m in my element. I’ve watched damn near every JCVD movie out there, no matter how “great” they might be. Back when I had satellite, I basked in Syfy’s movie smorgasbords. Ice Spiders? I’ll eat that right up. Dinocroc? Oh God yes.
I also love Christmas. I’m a nut for the holidays, starting with Halloween and ending New Year’s Day, even if the last time I’ve actually been to a New Year’s party was when I was seventeen or so and disappeared for an entire weekend. Sorry mom and dad!
I like the spirit. I like the kindness we ostensibly show one another (and yes, I get it, it’s something we should do all year, but come on, don’t ruin this for me). I like giving. I like the cookies, the decorating, the ugly Christmas sweaters, the goofy hats. I like imagining someday, no matter how foolish the hope, I’ll get to play Santa and Mrs. Claus with someone very special to me to kids just as spectacular as their parents. Especially their dad, who is doubtless The World’s Greatest.
Today, I realized just how many B-tier Christmas movies there were on Netflix, and I figured I’d give one of them a shot because sometimes you do genuinely find a winner among the dreck. For example, I think I found Nothing Like the Holidays on a streaming service years ago, and that movie had enough genuine heart to it I ended up buying a copy and watch it every other year or so.
That desire to watch Christmas terribleness and conjoin two of my loves led me to think about how I could share in my misery (or not, depending on what I find). That led me to this, the blog ranked #1 by Forbes in the “least likely website anyone will ever visit” category.
Now, to start things off, I needed a bang. Not in the sexual sense, because in these glossy fantasies, babies are probably flown in by pasty white storks with perfect teeth and wide-eyed minorities as their stork buddies. No, I needed a whopper of a bad Christmas movie to grab your attention, which worked, because you’re here, now, reading this – unless you’re me and you’re finally getting around to proofreading this, which you probably should have done BEFORE posting it, numbskull.
What was I saying? Right, white people, ethnic minority buddies, subzero heat levels, and wasted potential for meaningful commentary, even if that meaningful commentary is about fifty years late in coming. That means it’s time for a Christmas romance movie!
I’m a bit of an accidental connoisseur of these. My grandmother is all but house-ridden, and loves the things. Every time I go down to her house during the holidays these last couple of years, the Hallmark channel is on, usually glued to one or two actors or actresses you haven’t seen since the days when we were all worried about the Y2K virus. That’s, um, that’s 1999 or so for all you young’uns. See, we were worried that computers’ internal clocks would… eh, screw it. We all thought we were going to die in a fiery nerdpocalypse of unfixable proportions. Got it? Okay then.
The point is, I’ve watched enough of probably… oh, a dozen or so of these to know the setup like the back of my hand. Wait, I’m blind and I’ve never paid much attention to the back of my hand. I know it like the toilet roll in my bathroom! That’s better. Let’s break the genre down to its barest bones and I’ll show you how predictable they are:
- Perfect white girl in a dead-end job and/or relationship dreams of better things.
- Perfect white guy with just a hint of the playboy to him – usually insinuated by other characters rather than evidenced in any playboy behavior – provides an easy escape for the perfect white girl, who always is able to fly, drive, or get away with a moment’s notice.
- Perfect white girl’s minority friend (if she’s black, she’s not TOO black, because God forbid we make the target audience too uncomfortable) and Other Friend (usually a gay man, sometimes another “tawdry” girlfriend who tells it like it is) insist on Perfect White Girl getting away from it all. Note that neither of these side characters are ever used for anything other than encouragement and/or comic relief, because again, we don’t want to expose and overstimulate our audiences to cultures and/or peoples than what they’re expecting.
- Perfect girl lies to perfect guy to get close.
- Perfect guy is a moron and doesn’t check up on perfect girl, like, oh, taking five minutes to just look her up on Facebook.
- Perfect guy has a friend or relative to whom he shows unfaltering loyalty and kindness.
- Family Member/Friend convinces Perfect Girl to go for Perfect Guy.
- Nefarious Jealous Type, who is never, ever, under any nefarious circumstances given anything other than nefarious mustache-twirling levels of nefariousness to flesh out his/her nefarious character, decides Perfect Girl and Perfect Guy can’t be together.
- Nefarious Type calls out Perfect Girl on her bullshit. Probably this person should be the hero if they hadn’t been painted in such nefarious broad strokes, because the lying so-and-so is a Liar McButtface, but because we’re supposed to want Perfect Girl and Perfect Guy to wind up together regardless, the deception is conveniently glossed over for the sake of…
- Perfect Guy looks lost, usually with much frowning and moping around with Family Member/Friend trying to convince them it’ll all be all right, despite Liar McButtface being a total douche.
- Perfect Girl, despite being a Liar McButtface, rushes back after a Moment of Realization. Perfect Guy, despite having JUST BEEN SHIT ON, almost immediately takes her back, no doubt dooming himself to a lifetime of nights wondering just where the hell Perfect Girl actually is every time she’s two hours late. Here’s a hint, Perfect White Guy – she’s probably off getting finger-banged by one of her Liar McButtface friends who doubtless has more balls than you, you doormat.
Right, so that’s the generic setup to almost very literally all of these movies. Oh, sure, once every other year or so, you get an “urban” variation of this featuring lightly black individuals to fill a need in the programming so they don’t seem too racist, but that’s about the lone exception.
A Christmas Prince is exactly that. Exactly. That. Rose McIver – of the actually-decent iZombie TV show – is your Perfect Woman, while Ben Lamb, of… uh… Christmas Prince fame, is your Perfect Guy. The Borg Queen Alice Krige sadly doesn’t assimilate all these chumps into her hive mind as the Queen of Some Fictional Small Country that’s Inexplicably British and Rich.
The standout actress here is Honor Kneafsey, who plays a child princess with what I believe to be MS. She plays well off Rose McIver when she’s not given the “mischievous stinker” lines every child in movies like this have to have, because God forbid we paint kids as being kids, with all their bratty mood swings and general “if you don’t watch out for me I will probably die” neediness. Kneafsey manages to get in a few lines of seemingly honest dialogue, but her illness is largely glossed over with an impossible “you can do whatever you like!” attitude and never any fear of her getting ill or seriously injured in her horseplay.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering this is probably going to be watched by a much younger demographic – and they do need to know kids with disabilities should be allowed into regular activities if their doctors and parents are okay with it. But by ignoring the illness altogether, it gives the middle finger to people who actually cannot perform those physical activities. Just one line of dialogue – one, “I do need to be careful, okay?” – could have made this believable and gotten a pass from me, but oh well.
In any case, the players fit into their cliched characters like well-worn gloves forced onto their cold, clammy undead hands – at least in the case of McIver, who you really should just go watch in iZombie instead. Trust me, though, if you do, watch like three episodes of every season, followed by the last three. You’ll skip a bunch of unnecessary hemming and hawing and get right to the parts where shit actually happens. Also, her partner in that show is a treasure. A treasure!
Right, back on point. Uh, McIver is a copy editor at a major publication, which immediately sets this off as being in fantasy land, because if this was reality, they’d all be fired and working from home, guzzling down bourbon and slapping around their significant others when asked when they might actually get a real job. Journalists. In 2017. That’s cute!
She’s apparently unhappy with her cushy job in a high-rise office building with amazing windows and views and impossibly chic friends, so there’s a bit of whining before she’s rushed off to Blutoslavadiakevorkian to report on the royal family’s new upcoming king. Why not someone else, preferably someone not so whiny about a cushy copy editor job? Reasons, that’s why, and if you ask me again, I’ll slap you with a swimming noodle for being so nosy.
Some Random Guy steals her cab. Yup, you guessed it, it’s Perfect Guy in disguise. It’s never brought up again that he’s a cab thief, except in jokes, so the fact that he’s kind of a douche is just immediately forgotten again for reasons. Look, the movie ain’t exactly handing out chestnuts of great plot elements here, all right? I’m working with what I can, and that’s not much.
Perfect Girl arrives at the palace of Kevorkidorkian – which, by the way, looks suspiciously like the Peles Castle in Romania because, um, that’s what it is. Don’t ask me how I know that. Perfect Guy is apparently supposed to come announce he’s gonna become king on Christmas Day and lay the smackdown on Saladin on his great crusade and… wait. Wrong King Dicky.
No, Perfect Guy is back to take what’s rightfully his, and that seems to be… a lot of whininess about being king. Perfect Girl slips into his court by pretending to be the royal princess’s tutor. You can guess what’s going to be the giant wedge between the two already, can’t you? Of course you can, because instead of doing something interesting and revealing the truth to Richard when they start making “I want our thingies to get very messy together” eyes at each other, she doesn’t. Apparently his man bits make her Perfect Girl brain too vapid to say something as simple as, “Oh, hey, dude, I’ve been lying but if you let me explain it’s totally cool and your sister can back me up on this.”
God, I hate this movie. I hate when a story adamantly refuses to deviate from its cliched structure, even if just for a moment. I hate stories about impossibly perfect people. I hate dipping a spoon into sour cream thinking I’m getting a bite of cottage cheese in the middle of the night because shut up cottage cheese is a delightful midnight snack and I don’t have to justify myself to you, you nosy Nancy.
The one good thing the movie hints at doing – and this is the aforementioned “fifty years too late to be relevant” commentary – is a line by the princess about not being in line for the throne because of her particular private bits. This sets up would could have been a perfectly acceptable closing where the prince – who isn’t even blood – pushes for the daughter to become Queen. The set-up is even right there in a decree left by the former king that instead crowns the prince, who has done nothing to deserve kingliness except throw snowballs at unsuspecting kids who probably got frostbite and lost a finger or a toe. The princess’s plight at never being considered for the royal throne is never mentioned again. Not once. Because our heroine HAS to wind up with the king, right?
This is the sort of shlock I hate, and it’s pretty much defined by the cleanliness of the whole production. There are snowball fights wherein no one gets cold or even particularly wet. There’s no dirt. No grime. Not a hair is ever out of place. No one is less than perfect or villainous. It’s as binary a movie as you can imagine. There’s no real struggles here by anyone, no threat that won’t go unresolved, no heart that won’t go a-pitter-patter. This is a completely, insanely dull safe movie. That’s probably going to attract viewers, not push them away, and that’s totally fine. If this is what you want out of your entertainment, I actually kinda get it. I like my bad movies too. I just hope like hell whatever I wind up watching next has a little more flavor than this bland vanilla pudding I just crammed down my throat.
So with that said, tune in next time when I cram more vanilla pudding down my throat!