It’s happened to everyone: you date someone for a year, you suddenly find out they’re royal, and then you go off and spend the holidays with them at the castle, because who wouldn’t want to spend A Royal Christmas getting to know where their beau came from?
Emily Corrigan (Lacey Chabert) looks forward to spending Christmas in Philadelphia with her father Bud, best friend Toni, and long-term boyfriend Leo James (Stephen Hagan). That plan goes awry when Leo is commanded to return home for Christmas by his mother, the Queen of Cordinia. It seems he happens to be His Royal Highness, Prince Leopold, Duke of Cordinia — and when the queen says to return, you return.
Queen Isadora (Jane Seymour) doesn’t put forth any effort to hide her disdain at Leopold’s relationship choice. Emily, however, is determined to endure Isadora’s scorn — aided by some help from the staff. This task is made more difficult when the queen’s choice for Leopold, his long-time friend and brief paramour Natasha (Katherine Flynn) is thrust into his life at every opportunity.
Despite making every effort to be acceptable to the queen, Emily finally makes a fatal mistake that gets some of her staff allies fired and sends her running back to the comfort of South Philadelphia after rejecting Leo’s proposal. Because of Emily’s character, Isadora has a change of heart. With his mother’s blessing, Leo proposes to Emily (twice) in the snow in front of her father’s tailoring shop. How can a woman say no? She can’t, and soon finds herself saying “I do” in the chapel on the castle grounds.
While a pleasant enough movie, I was disappointed it wasn’t better. It often felt like a pastiche of other royal frolics such as The Princess Diaries and A Princess for Christmas. Where this movie stumbled was with the characterization of Queen Isadora. Her open hostility was most unbecoming of a queen. More interesting would have been her conspiring behind the scenes with Natasha while publicly playing nice with Emily. Very little would have to change, but it would has a more organic layer to story.
I also wasn’t a big fan of the casting for Leo. For lack of a better description, he didn’t seem royal enough. Now, I’m not say he needed to be the stereotypical prim upper-crust sort that you often see in royal-out-of-water movies, but a little bit of refinement and a little less man’s-best-friend would have been nice.
Those were my major problems. I still liked the movie. It’s mostly hurt in comparison with ones that, frankly, were better.
My favorite part was Emily’s relationship with Baroness Galina — who was once just as much an outsider as Emily, but is now part of the circle of nobility. This felt like an honest friendship with a noble that we don’t often see in these sorts of movies.
I have mixed feelings about Emily’s relationship with the various members of the staff. After Galina, these were easily the most organic and enjoyable relationships. My only gripe is that it’s such a trope that the commoner only finds comfort in the honest friendship of the help. Americans such as Emily may not be trained in the finer points of etiquette and comportment, but that doesn’t mean the only place for them is below stairs — amazingly, some have been known to scrub up rather well.
I wanted A Royal Christmas to be better. It still makes for an enjoyable film, but it feels like it could have shone with a few tweaks. If the queen had been a little more diplomatic, I probably would have enjoyed it more. Still, I’ll doubtless be watching it when it reappears — there are many scenes to commend it (just assume that “jellied eels” is a local culinary colloquialism for octopus arms and you’ll likely do fine).
|3.5 of 5|
For more movies, go to the list at: Watching the Holiday Movies
Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer:Gabriel Hennessey