Hallmark Princesses

I've made some posts in this blog about live-action princess movies, but I failed to mention a newer collection of princess-themed films that has grown exponentially within the past decade. Owned by everyone's favorite greeting card company, the Hallmark Channel is famous for fluffy feel-good low-budget films that usually take place around Christmastime. Hallmark has released a dozen or so princess movies over the past decade, most of which are Christmas or winter-themed. The two I have seen are A Princess for Christmas in 2011 and A Winter Princess, which came out in early 2019. Both of these movies were similar in tone and plot to the 2017 Netflix original, A Christmas Prince. Aside from the lack of creativity when it comes to titles, all of these movies are have predictable storylines and are not terribly memorable, but don't worry. If you forget one, there are plenty more to take its place.

A Princess for Christmas poster

A Princess for Christmas stars Katie McGrath, who was in the middle of her successful run as Lady Morgana in the BBC's Merlin at the time, and Sam Heughan, who went on to star as Outlander heartthrob Jamie Fraser. Even though I saw this movie when it came out in 2011, I had completely forgotten it existed until recently. It's a weird story that kind of wants to be The Princess Diaries but also wants to be its own thing and never quite makes up its mind before the ending. Katie stars as Jules Daly, a struggling career woman who was thrown into the role of caretaker for her niece and nephew after their parents died in a tragic accident. The children's paternal grandfather sends for the family to visit his castle when he is taken ill, where they reap the benefits of royal life after he makes a miraculous recovery. I have to give credit where credit is due. The concept is unique for a princess movie and has a lot of potential. The problem is everything that follows.

Hallmark was lucky to get someone as lovely and talented as Katie to take on the role of Jules because she is an entirely unlikeable character otherwise. In the opening scene, she gets fired from her job due to her inability to balance her career with her role as caretaker, and she is rude to the representative who offers her family a stay at the castle. When Jules arrives at the castle, she panics and tells the kids not to break anything. A few minutes later, she breaks a sconce and shows no remorse for it when she encounters with her brother-in-law, who happens to be a prince. Despite the actors' best efforts to create chemistry, I could not figure out why they were interested in each other romantically aside from their ties over their siblings' marriage. The movie tries to make up for this by giving Jules a foil in a greedy gold-digger who only wants to marry Ashton because he's a prince, but the fact that Jules isn't only interested in him for his crown does not automatically make her the perfect match for him.

Eight years later, Hallmark followed up their holiday princess tradition with A Winter Princess, starring Natalie Hall from Pretty Little Liars as Carly, a princess from a small European country who took a vacation from palace life by working at a small ski resort. Carly is much easier to relate to than Jules, though she does a poor job of hiding her royal mannerisms. The story begins when Carly's roommate, Allison, invites her brother, Jesse, to the resort to help plan a winter ball in the hopes that it would draw more business to their small town. Jesse figures out Carly's royal lineage right away, which makes you wonder why no one else did after living with her for a year. There's some more drama when Carly's brother comes to town with her father and a local prince who is implied to be a potential suitor for her. Having everyone come to her provides a convenient excuse for the producers to not have to dish out a royal budget, but it also helps to accentuate the theme of Carly's preference for small-town life.

A Winter Princess is by no means a bad movie. It's a charming and pleasant escape from the harshness of reality, but it's also stereotypical rom-com fare. What else would you expect from the Hallmark Channel? My biggest complaint is that it had no villain. The only thing separating Carly from her goal to be free from palace life was her own reluctance to tell her father how she really felt, which turned out to be mostly in her own head. Similar to Netflix's The Princess Switch, it will make you feel good, but won't make you think, which is probably the same as all of the other princess movies on Hallmark Channel that I have yet to see.

If you're looking for some lighthearted romantic princess fluff, Hallmark Channel is the place for you. Theatrical princess films have moved on from cheeseball romances to action/adventure stories where the princess takes on the role of the hero. Hallmark continues to provide throwbacks to the romantic comedy era of the '90s with big names and predictably sappy stories. Do you have a favorite Hallmark Channel princess movie? Let me know your recommendations in the comments!


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