Something that sometimes gets lost in criticism is that there is plenty of room at the table for more than just prestige programming. The abundance of series and movies currently available, especially on Netflix, often forces us to think otherwise, because why should we spend what little free time we do have on anything but the best of the best? But the truth is, not everything needs to be as complex as Watchmen or as profoundly moving as Unbelievable. Sometimes our brains actually crave middlebrow (or even lowbrow) programming as a means to unwind, so even things that might seem unnecessary or unimportant often find an audience.
Nothing says "middle of the road" or "minimal intellectual effort" quite like Netflix's A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby, the third film in the streaming service's holiday-themed franchise starring Rose McIver (iZombie) as a former journalist from New York City who married into the royal family of the fictional country of Aldovia. And frankly, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby knows this, which is why it doesn't seem to — or need to — try very hard.
In the film, which is only one hour and 25 minutes, bless its heart, McIver's Queen Amber, who married King Richard (Ben Lamb) in last year's A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding, is now pregnant with the couple's first child. The baby's impending birth coincides with the festive holiday that first brought the couple together as well as a visit from Aldovia's most loyal ally, the country of Penglia, to renew a 600-year-old treaty. When the treaty goes missing days before Christmas during a massive snowstorm (meaning no one can get in or out so the treaty must still be in the palace), the peace between the two countries is jeopardized...
... But honestly, no one in the film actually seems all that concerned that a war might break out between the two small countries. Not once does this even feel like a real possibility. King Tai (Kevin Shen) and Queen Ming (Momo Yeung) of Penglia are not portrayed as villains; they are very kind people who also have lots of good advice for Amber and Richard about becoming parents (at one point Tai even helps Richard build a crib, and they do it the manly-man way, which is to say that they don't follow the absurdly thick instruction manual and then the entire thing collapses. Cue the laughs). When the treaty first goes missing, the two royal families actually pass the time by playing a game in which the objective is to decorate their half of a Christmas tree first by answering trivia questions about Alvodian history. It's all very friendly, if completely ridiculous because a dramatic whodunnit might have made this film stick out a bit more among the never-ending holiday films.
To drive home how not serious this entire situation is, not even an impending curse upon Amber and Richard's firstborn child (if the treaty isn't signed before the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve, the child will be cursed, obviously) can do much to throw off the cheery atmosphere or festive nature of this Christmas movie. Nevertheless, Amber (whose hair remains the weakest part of these movies) trots out her hilariously mediocre investigative journalism skills for old times' sake and attempts to solve the case and find the missing treaty after "specially trained dogs" failed to "sniff it out."
In the end, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby is just another classic made-for-TV movie designed to compete with the Hallmark Christmas Movie Industrial Complex. In between the game playing and investigating there's a visit to a Christmas market that reveals how little security the Aldovian royal family has when they go outside; the Penglians showing concern about making it home in time for Christmas with their own children; and an ongoing discussion about moving the two monarchies into the 21st century by allowing both Amber and Ming to be the first queens to sign the treaty. It's nothing too deep, nothing too serious.
You'll definitely roll your eyes at Amber's bump, which is definitely not the baby bump of a very short woman who is supposed to be eight and a half months pregnant. And you will laugh out loud at some of the cringe-worthy acting that accompanies the film's ludicrous plot. And, like me, you'll once again find yourself confused by a reference to meat jelly that might make sense if you go back and rewatch the first film but we all know you won't. And this is all kind of the point. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby knows what it is and plays to its audience. It's not meant to be taken too seriously. It's meant to be the happy movie you turn on after a long day fighting the Christmas crowds at the mall. Therefore, you can only sit back, relax, and laugh as someone jokes that the royal baby, who is born by the end of the movie, should be named Khaleesi. Because obviously.
TV Guide Rating: 2.5/5
A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby is now streaming on Netflix.