For whatever reason, Christmas always sparks terrible movies. Now, joining the ranks of Hallmark and Lifetime, Netflix has joined in with two terrible Christmas offerings: A CHRISTMAS PRINCE and CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE. Both movies rely on tired tropes to hide a lack of story or decent characters and represent lowest common denominator entertainment.

A CHRISTMAS PRINCE

First up is A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, a movie that strangely marries THE PRINCESS DIARIES with the Hallmark Christmas Movie™. A CHRISTMAS PRINCE tells the story of Amber, a frustrated young junior editor who longs to be taken seriously as a journalist.

Amber gets the opportunity of a lifetime with the succession crisis going on in fictional country Aldovia. The king of Aldovia had died a year previously, and the new crown prince must ascend the throne by Christmas, or he will lose the throne. The complication? The prince is known as a playboy and is expected to abdicate. Amber’s magazine sends her to Aldovia to cover the situation, but it means leaving home at Christmas.

A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE
A summary of viewers’ response.

Unfortunately, playboy prince Richard skips the press conference. As all the other journalists leave, Amber takes the opportunity to throw ethics out the window and snoops around the palace. When a staff member mistakes her for the princess’ new governess, she lies about her identity to get an inside scoop.

Of course, over the course of the movie, Amber helps the young princess feel like a normal child, discovers Richard is a humble, sweet, down-to-earth person, and even helps foil a pseudo-coup by proving that Richard is next-in-line. There are outlandish twists that make no sense, cartoonish stereotypes, and, of course, Christmas magic.

In the end, Richard becomes king, and Amber leaves her magazine when they want to publish a harsh piece. Instead, she starts a blog about the real King Richard. On New Year’s Eve, when Amber is back in New York, Richard surprises her with a visit — and a proposal. Presumably, they all then live happily ever after.

CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE

Following the strangely warm reception to A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, Netflix released a second terrible Christmas movie, CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE. Although it has a different plot from A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, it carries the same unmistakable air of a Christmas movie.

In CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE, our heroine is Ellie, the daughter of Jim Langford, CEO, and founder of a major corporation. Her father wants to retire but is unsure of giving Ellie control of the company. Ellie has a reputation as a “party heiress,” and Jim worries that she isn’t serious or mature enough. Worse, Jim worries Ellie isn’t Christmas enough.

A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE
How will Ellie ever choose between the bland male protagonist and the shallow bad guy?

So Jim sends Ellen to his hometown, Snow Falls. Ostensibly, Ellie is there to hand-deliver a Christmas letter to Jim’s co-founder, Zeke. However, we find out later that Jim and Zeke rigged things. Ellie is stuck in Snow Falls with no money, no cell service, and no Zeke. She is forced to get to know the locals and learn about the true spirit of gift-giving, family, and love.

Of course, while Ellie is there, she also meets down-to-earth good guy Jake. Jake shows Ellie what it’s like to be normal. At the same time, Ellie’s terrible fiance is in New York and pushes Ellie to disregard her responsibilities so that they can go to Hawaii. In the end, Ellie unsurprisingly ditches her fiance and returns to Snow Falls. There, her father surprises her by giving her their company.

Later, Ellie and Jake share a slow dance to “Silent Night,” as one does. The romantic tension that has grown between them is now acceptable as Ellie is no longer engaged. They kiss, and CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE ends, having shown all of us the meaning of Christmas just like Ellie.

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So what gives? A CHRISTMAS PRINCE is almost a meme; it’s so ironically popular. CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE hasn’t been around as long, but it’s likely to receive a similar reaction. But the truth is, these movies are awful.

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Both A CHRISTMAS PRINCE and CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE rely on crappy tropes, stock characters, and a complete and utter disregard for logic. When you break them down, both movies showcase that the terrible Christmas movie phenomenon is truly a case of the lowest common denominator.

Dead Parents

Of course, no terrible movie would be complete without the trope of Tragic Dead Parent™. In CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE, Jim worries that he ruined Ellie after the death of her mother, Nora. Faced with a young daughter and a family tragedy, Jim spoiled Ellie. He blames himself for her party personality and lack of responsibility.

Later, Ellie uses Nora as a sort of excuse for her behavior. She even tells Jake that she didn’t want to come to Snow Falls — despite showing no such reluctance in the movie — because it reminded her of her mother. Ellie is in Snow Falls incognito, but she is recognized because she’s the spitting image of Nora, apparently. Nora serves solely to humanize Ellie and make her seem like a character worthy of redemption.

A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE
This acorn is a gift from Richard’s dead father, plays a more major role than most actors.

A CHRISTMAS PRINCE plays the dead parent trope a little less heavy-handedly but makes up for it with two dead parents. Both Amber and Richard have lost a parent. Amber has lost her mother, and this doesn’t play a huge role in the film. However, it does allow her to bond with Richard over a shared sense of loss.

Richard’s loss, however, is much greater. Part of this is because Richard’s father was king, and Richard must now succeed him. However, there’s also a dramatic reveal where we learn that Richard is only the adopted son of the former king. This provides more turmoil for Richard, who never wanted the throne in the first place. However, his father wrote a touching letter about how Richard was the son he chose and chooses to take up his responsibility to Aldovia.

Shallow Villains

Both movies also rely heavily on the trope of the shallow villain. In both A CHRISTMAS PRINCE and CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE, there needed to be some wrench in the works to provide conflict. In both cases, Netflix chose to go with cartoonishly bad people, rather than giving any depth.

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In A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, there are two villains. One is Richard’s cousin Simon, who stands to inherit the throne if Richard abdicates. The other is Richard’s former flame, Sophia. Both are shown as scheming, vain, and greedy people. Sophia sold a tell-all to the media, breaking Richard’s heart.

It is Sophia and Simon who reveal Richard’s true parentage. They literally snoop through Amber’s things, then reveal the truth at the worst possible moment — during Richard’s coronation. At the end, when Amber reveals the late king left a document legitimizing Richard as his true heir, it almost isn’t satisfying to see Simon and Sophia get their comeuppance because it was just too predictable.

A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE
Poor sad rich boy, boo hoo.

Ellie’s fiance Gray stands as the villain in CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE. Gray is less overtly evil and more just a shallow human being. He belittles Ellie and scoffs at Christmas traditions. He only cares about himself and enjoying life, and it’s obvious right from the start that Ellie will leave him.

Gray almost gets humanized in the film, however. There’s a moment where Gray, in a bar, talks to Jake about Christmas. He mentions how his family wasn’t big on traditions, but rather focused on the newest shiny toy. There’s a hint of a pseudo-tragic backstory (oh poor rich kid, his parents didn’t care), but Netflix glosses over it.

“Fooled Again”

Another common terrible trope in these movies is a case of mistaken identity. In both cases, the heroine lies about who she is, and the brutally hurting the hero is brutally in the process. They thought she was “different.”

In A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, this is understandable. Amber gets to know Richard, who sees in her someone he can be honest with and can truly trust. In reality, Amber is a reporter there to get an expose. When her true identity is revealed, you can understand the hurt, especially since Richard was already betrayed in a similar way by Sophia.

The reaction was less understandable in CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE, in my opinion. Since Ellie is incognito, she gives Jake a fake name. She also tells him she was a baker. But that’s really it — she’s not there to hurt anyone or fool anyone. But was Jake actually burned in the past when his ex-wife decided to leave him? It’s not super clear why he considers this a betrayal — yes, that hurts (trust me), but it doesn’t seem like she lied to him.

A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE
And yet you betray that trust by blowing up like a whiny man-child?

Regardless, when Gray lets slip the truth to Jake, he kind of overreacts. He does a quick Google search and finds Ellie — and her reputation as the “party heiress.” He bemoans his luck, quietly chastising himself for being “fooled again.” Except he wasn’t precisely fooled the first time?

Anyway, he then treats Ellie horribly, proving that she was right to hide her identity. Ellie is made to look bad, even though she was only following her father’s instructions. In the end, however, they reconcile. This “betrayal” is glossed over and seems to be forgotten once Ellie is single and therefore Jake is allowed to like her.

Tugging On Heartstrings

Finally, the perhaps most egregious trope in these movies is how they unabashedly tug on the viewers’ heartstrings — or try to. They pull on cheap emotional ploys to try and make up for the lack of plot or decent characters. These emotional tactics also serve to make the heroines look better, which is especially needed as neither is particularly likable.

A CHRISTMAS PRINCE is particularly terrible at this. Richard’s sister Emily is a spoiled, rude princess. But Emily is “special” because she has a disability. She has spina bifida, which limits her mobility. The fact that Amber doesn’t treat her as if she were broken is what allows Emily to “cut loose” and be a real kid.

A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE
Disabled kid = instant emotional kudos?

CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE is less overt but still plays with the emotions. At one point, people in the town lose power and seek shelter in the inn where Ellie is staying. She gives up her room for a mother with two young daughters, proving she has a good heart. Then, the mother reveals that her husband is a soldier overseas, and they were hoping to have him home for Christmas. The worst part is he never actually shows up after that.

Another ploy used in CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE is homelessness. A homeless man, Baxter, plays a role in Ellie’s development. When she doesn’t give him money, Jake gives her a hard time. Later, Ellie goes out into a dangerous storm to save Baxter, proving to Jake that she has a heart of gold underneath her rich girl exterior.

Christmas Movie Madness

Of course, neither A CHRISTMAS PRINCE nor CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE are anything new. They are merely the latest two movies in a long string of over-emotional, under-developed stories churned out every year for the holidays. In fact, in comparison to some Christmas movies, these two are practically Oscar-worthy.

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But they represent a larger problem in storytelling. People enjoy celebrating Christmas all month long and seek suitable entertainment. And there are only so many times you can watch Charlie Brown and his crappy tree. But that doesn’t excuse subpar work on the parts of people telling these stories.

By relying on cheap, manipulative tropes, these movies appeal to the lowest of humanity. Instead of taking Christmas as an opportunity to inspire, filmmakers take it as a quick and easy way to gain views. And, for some reason, they’re successful. Every year sees more terrible Christmas movies, and every year people will watch and rewatch these films.

A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE
Even Netflix is judging us for watching.

We should expect more of our holiday entertainment. There are truly great Christmas movies out there, and they don’t have to be cinematic masterpieces. I’ve always thought THE SANTA CLAUSE told an original and fun story, even if it’s goofy and a bit low-brow. We need more originality and less formula in our Christmas movies.

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