Royal Matchmaker (2018)

From star Bethany Joy Lenz’s chic outfits to my favorite supporting actress Brittany Baristow to the fairy tale Romanian filming location, there’s enough to enjoy about this movie that one can forgive its lackluster story and characters. Lenz plays Kate, matchmaker to the stars, who gets an assignment of a lifetime when King Edward of Voldavia (Simon Dutton) enlists her help to find his son a date for the jubilee ball. She and her assistant (Baristow) have one month to match Prince Sebastian (Will Kemp) with a lady of noble blood, a big ask but a job that comes with posh digs at the royal residence

It’s not overstating things to say that Romania makes a magical Voldavia. It has all the grandeur and quaintness that Americans love in their European kingdoms, both real and imagined. Hallmark takes full advantage of the location shoot and features things like castles backlit by the moonlight and narrow cobblestoned village roads. We get fancy interior shots as well, whether it’s the ballroom, dining room, or even the boiler room. The setting makes quite the contrast from the channel’s usual backdrop of small town America.

I can’t help but think the scenery is doing a lot of the heavy lifting though. The story isn’t bad by any means, but I was hoping for something more worthy of its location. Kate and Sebastian get off to a predictably rocky start; she’s pushy, he’s arrogant, and both are determined to get their way. Kate knows that she can break through the prince’s cynicism and help him not only find love but treasure it as well. Sebastian is equally set on proving that happiness lies in his independence and perhaps his affinity for cars.

The story takes a hands off approach just when it needs some intervention. The second act coasts on the warming relations between the two. The trouble is, Kate and Sebastian aren’t all that interesting when they aren’t together or when they’re just politely acknowledging one another. As the prince grows more receptive to the idea of finding love, we see his softer, more charitable side. There’s a secondary plot involving a crumbling community center that he shows an interest in, and it’s a project that also involves his loyal valet (Joseph Thompson).

However, the story is at its best when there’s real tension, when Sebastian’s flinty personality strikes at Kate’s own resoluteness. He isn’t exactly a Prince Charming on first meeting or the second, and their hostility is what sets things alight. Lenz and Kemp don’t have as much fire once their characters are more comfortable around each other. Kate and Sebastian do develop a friendly relationship, one where she delivers breakfast just to get the scoop on last night’s date, but they’re not together enough for that chummy feeling to rub off.

Released: 2018
Dir: Mike Rohl
Writer: Mark Amato
Cast: Bethany Joy Lenz, Will Kemp, Brittany Baristow, Simon Dutton, Joseph Thompson, Elva Trill, Poppy Roe, Woody Hamilton Hurst
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2019

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