Look, there are so many great Christmas movies out there, and some are even about young American women falling in love with a foreign prince. In fact, many are, which is why there’s no excuse to watch this embarrassing attempt from Ion. If you really wanted to indulge in the genre, you’d watch A Christmas Prince or Crown for Christmas because quality matters. With A Christmas in Royal Fashion, what you get instead is a cheap knockoff.
From the stars to the story to the set, nothing conveys a sense of Christmas, royalty, or fashion. It’s labeled a Christmas story only because it takes place during the holidays and there’s a tree lighting ceremony to attend, but actual Christmas cheer is an short supply with barely a strand of garland or lights to give things a festive touch. The whole look, in fact, is drab despite being set in Los Angeles. With Ion films, I always feel like they’ve rented one small corner of a building, an arrangement that forces them to squeeze the actors together and that gives their scenes a compressed, claustrophobic look. I expect at least some grandeur when the word “royal” gets deployed, whether the story unfolds in a palace or elsewhere. Even if we’re watching a young prince bumble about amongst the commoners, there should be an element of majesty somewhere. The only hint of that is Prince Patrick’s (Diarmaid Murtagh) royal dress at the end of the film, worn for the climactic charity fashion show. The underwhelming event lacks a proper build up, and the fashion on display seems to have been an afterthought as well.
Nevertheless, it is the reason for the prince’s trip from his kingdom of Edgemoor. Patrick, acting a little too much like Prince Hal for his father’s taste, is sent abroad in his royal capacity so that he might throw off his loose behavior and take his duties seriously. In LA, he meets Kristin (Cindy Busby), the PR rep who guides him through his various charity commitments. A misunderstanding, however, causes Kristin to take on the alias of her exacting boss, Melanie (Meredith Thomas), who is stuck in a snowstorm out east. This of course will lead to a moment of great betrayal and test whether the prince and his beloved can see and love each other as they truly are.
The outcome is not a surprise – it never is – but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying similar movies. What has though is the lack of a winning cast, one that can take a story we’ve seen many times before and turn it into something we don’t mind seeing one more time. As much as they try, the actors in this film add none of that spark and originality. I’m most surprised to see Busby in the lead role. She starred in the similarly themed Royal Hearts for Hallmark earlier in the year, and I hope she hasn’t been put out by them. I’m not a great fan of hers but she can hold her own with a better script, i.e. Unleashing Mr. Darcy. She tends to be exaggerated and emotive, and there doesn’t seem to be a place for her to put those feelings here. She certainly doesn’t hand them off to her costar. Busby and Murtagh have some chemistry, and their characters believably get on, just not in a fiery, romantic way. Instead, Kristin and Patrick are like two strangers who can make polite conversation for as long as necessary but who will be on their way the moment they’re called elsewhere. And elsewhere is exactly where one should be instead of sat in front of this movie.
Dir: Fred Olen Ray
Writer: Fred Olen Ray
Cast: Cindy Busby, Diarmaid Murtagh, Michael Paré, Adam Levy, Galyn Görg, Meredith Thomas, Jason Cook, Juliana Sada
Time: 90 min
Country: United States