Friday, December 24, 2021

Adam & Alison Watch Christmas Movies: ONE ROYAL HOLIDAY

by Adam Thas and Alison Thas

Part 4: One Royal Holiday

Alison: In the sea of holiday movies, it can be a difficult choice when it comes to selecting which movie to watch. Adam and I typically start the season out strong – knowing exactly which movies we’d like to watch, eagerly awaiting the holiday magic to unfold. Inevitably, we hit a wall where we find ourselves scrolling through the long lists of movies. Adam and I were nearing this point when a recommendation came from an unlikely source: Peloton. In a typical pandemic move, we purchased a Peloton during quarantine and both have become regular riders. Not to sound like we are part of a cult, but as you ride, you get to know the different instructors as they share tidbits about their lives in between songs. One of the instructors, Bradley Rose, tried his hand at acting prior to being hired at Peloton. While he himself didn’t share the name of one of his movies, a fellow Peloton rider shared it on the official Peloton Facebook page (and as I’m typing I’m realizing maybe I am part of a cult?). After a quick search, we found his movie, One Royal Holiday, on the Hallmark channel and we were all set.

Any excitement we had at seeing a Peloton instructor in a holiday movie was quickly depleted within the first 15 minutes of the movie. Anna (Laura Osnes) is a cardiac nurse who graciously offers a room at her father’s inn to a group of strangers. In the first of many unbelievable events, those strangers just happen to be the queen, prince, and their royal bodyguard of some obscure kingdom. Upon arriving in the small town, there were more blizzards in one week than there are in a Russian decade. The queen and prince keep trying to leave but they remain snowed in. Anna takes it upon herself to show the prince (Aaron Tveit) the beauty of small-town America right down to its cute Christmas socks. Naturally the prince wants nothing to do with it and is more preoccupied about returning home in time for his Christmas address to the kingdom.
It’s not as if the writers didn’t attempt to capture that holiday magic. Carolers dressed like they were performing in A Christmas Carol were inexplicably wandering in and out of the scenes. There was a themed dinner. A themed parade. A themed ball or two. But they all felt like they were parts of other movies. I couldn’t be transported to this quaint little village because I was all too aware that this was ridiculous. Adam and I had some good laughs at the drama of the Christmas balls (yes, plural) so it wasn’t a total waste of time. I can’t in good conscience, however, recommend this movie to anyone.

Adam: If you created a screenwriting bot and fed it nothing but scripts from other holiday movies, I’m pretty sure One Royal Holiday would be the result. This movie is ridiculous, with just about every main character falling in love and the height of drama coming from things like simple misunderstandings to the party they need to plan by the end. The most unique thing about it is it may have the most unlikable character I’ve ever seen in any of these holiday movies in Prince Galant (Aaron Tveit). Besides his name being “Galant,” he’s a miserable person whose attitude is eventually explained away by him just needing to find the right woman. I don’t want go too much into the actual movie because Alison did most of that, but I will say for her to almost completely check out of this one after about 15 minutes tells you everything you need to know.

Instead, I want to bring some credence to these romantic holiday films to some of my fellow movie lovers. I don’t know how many of you are reading these short little reviews we have been doing, but through them I’ve often talked about the genre in general, and after spending nearly three years watching these movies I think that I was too dismissive of them. The Hallmark Channel kicked things off the 4th quarter of ratings this year with their annual “Countdown to Christmas,” of which One Royal Holiday was part. In the 4th quarter, the Hallmark Channel is the number one most-watched cable entertainment channel, averaging 4.2 million primetime viewers and leading with women 18 and over. Between Lifetime, Hallmark, and Netflix, they have released (or plan to release) over 75 brand new romantic holiday movies (41 from Hallmark, 30 from Lifetime at last check). It would be impossible for Alison and I to review even a slice of these movies from this year alone. It is very clear that there is a huge demand and loads of money being poured into these very genre-specific films.
As movie fans, the best I can compare these movies to is the slasher movies of the 1980s. Yeah, I know one is sweet holiday movies and the other are murderers, but I mean more to compare them as the almost “factory” sense they are produced and released regularly. In this context, I can compare them to something like the Friday the 13th movies. We all know that there are some great Friday the 13th movies, and we also know there are some completely terrible ones. However, in the vacuum of the Friday the 13th universe we can then start to compare ones to each other, and once we have established what makes a “Friday the 13th” movie, we can then also start to appreciate when one is bending or challenging the structure. Both Lifetime and Hallmark are clearly in competition to outdo each other, with at least Lifetime breaking their own record for releases this season. I don’t know when we will reach a saturation point with these, but seeing the numbers I don’t think we have. The market is just increasing with Lifetime and Hallmark leading the way but with Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu all getting in on it, it’s clear that we will just reach more demand.

These aren’t going to win any awards, or shift the cinematic landscape in any measurable way, but when looking at the numbers of these movies being produced, I couldn’t help but think about the amount of minds that went in to make 70-plus holiday movies in 2021. In a world where guys like James Gunn got his start making movies for Troma, how many writers, gaffers, DPs, or make-up artists are going to get work in this niche market? Much like the 1980s slasher genre, these movies are never going to get critical acclaim or be regularly respected in the larger film community, but in terms of the overall love of movie making we all share, there are creative people doing creative things in these movies. Unfortunately, with 70 movies made, we are likely to get more One Royal Holidays than we’d like, but we still get movies like Love Hard or Holidate, which I’d recommend to anyone. I know these aren’t being shown in theaters or film festivals, but I would implore you to give a few of these a chance, because there is something going on here that more of us movie fans should be aware of.

Adam’s List:
1) Holidate (2020, Netflix)
2) Love Hard (2021, Netflix)
3) Holiday Calendar (2018, Netflix)
4) Snowed Inn (2017, Hallmark)
5) The Princess Switch (2018, Netflix)
6) The Knight Before Christmas (2019, Netflix)
7) Midnight at the Magnolia (2020, Netflix)
8) Christmas Under Wraps (2014, Hallmark)
9) The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again (2020, Netflix)
10) The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star (2021, Netflix)
11) One Royal Holiday (2020, Hallmark)
11) Holiday in the Wild (2019, Netflix)
12) Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe (2018, Hallmark)

Alison’s List:
1) The Princess Switch (2018, Netflix)
2) Love Hard (2021, Netflix)
3) Holiday Calendar (2018, Netflix)
4) Holidate (2020, Netflix)
5) The Knight Before Christmas (2019, Netflix)
6) Christmas Under Wraps (2014, Hallmark)
7) Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe (2018, Hallmark)
8) The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again (2020, Netflix)
9) Snowed Inn (2017, Hallmark)
10) The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star (2021, Netflix)
11) One Royal Holiday (2020, Hallmark)
12) Holiday in the Wild (2019, Netflix)

1 comment:

  1. My mother watches a lot of the Hallmark Christmas movies. To be honest, I have never sat through much of even one of them, yet what I glean from them is that they please an audience. The reference to the slasher genre I find very fitting, Adam. Sometimes the formula is done well and sometimes it is done badly. Even my mother turns off a Hallmark film once in while. Enough people seem happy with the general mediocrity of Christmas films to ensure another batch gets made for the next year.

    There is a documentary about romance novels called Love Between The Covers that I enjoyed some years ago. Though not a fan of romance fiction, I could completely relate to the fandom presented in the doc. There sometimes is an undeniable power in formulaic storytelling.