I grew up loving made-for-TV movies. What millennial kid didn't? Disney Channel Originals were our lifeblood. And when I got a little older, I binged those zany, ABC Family movies like nobody's business. Look. They're supposed to be a little shitty. It's part of their charm.
These movies communicate in a language that every person (at least partly raised by a television) speaks. So Netflix's decision to introduce a stream of crappy-yet-charming original features into their library? Genius.
Their first "TV-Movie" that they released was a film called A Christmas Prince. And, as part of a whip-smart marketing campaign, Netflix has been celebrating subscribers who have watched the movie every damn day, since it was put online.
I confess. I wasn't planning on watching A Christmas Prince until the hype became too much for me not to. I'm busy AF and my time is precious. But I quickly understood that my time-out to watch this film was a great life decision. A Christmas Prince is bad in a way that makes it a lot of fun to watch, but at the same time, it's genuinely enjoyable.
But look, I'm not watching A Christmas Prince so you don't have to. No. I fully expect you to tune in, too. I'm hoping that my recap will only help to enhance your experience. Let's do this together.
A Christmas Prince... A Recap
The film begins with a series of establishing shots, setting up that we are in New York City... and maybe Chicago... during the height of the holiday season. A jolly Christmas tune plays in the background.
But our blonde, pretty heroine's day isn't so merry. Amber is a lowly, junior editor at a magazine, where its clique of hip writers like to walk all over her. Her two buddies in the junior editing trenches try to cheer her up, but Amber is defeated. She keeps submitting her own pieces to various publications, but she only ever gets rejections.
But then, the editor-in-chief of the magazine calls Amber into her office... what could it possibly be for???
"What do you know of the royal family of Aldovia?" asks the boss-lady (who was clearly inspired by Lana in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days).
Amber struggles for a moment, but then recalls that Aldovia's king died the previous year. However, their flaky prince has yet to take the throne.
The boss-lady concurs, adding that Aldovia's kingship will be up for grabs if the prince isn't made a king by Christmas. Soon, the palace will be holding a press conference about the issue, and the magazine will be sending Amber there to cover it!
"Why me?" asks Amber, stunned.
The boss-lady confesses that everyone else was busy. Oof.
Back at the junior editor cubicles, Amber scans some tabloid articles about the Aldovian prince, who appears to be a bit of a playboy. Her friends exclaim that the prince is a total 12/10, but Amber is all, "meh."
This triggers both her friends to roll their eyes, because Amber keeps blowing off eligible men. She's still tender, apparently, from her last relationship, which ended a year ago.
But now, Amber's friends are excited for her. This assignment for the magazine could jump-start her writing career!
It's nighttime when Amber makes her way to "Rudy's Diner," her father's business. He has her regular supper waiting for her... a hot dog and a doctored coffee. *Shudder*
Amber's dad is excited to switch up their Christmas cuisine and have five-alarm chili instead of corndogs, but Amber apologizes, confessing that she got an assignment that will take her out of the country for Christmas. Amber's father is delighted for her, but Amber is still discouraged. She lifts her chin, however, when he tells her to take a chance on her dreams.
Amber hops on a plane and arrives at the Aldovia International Airport. She walks outside, passing a squad of press waiting for the prince. She waits in line for a taxi, and is about to get in one when a bearded man in a hat and sunglasses hops into her cab!
"Sorry," he tells her. "I really have to go."
The cab speeds off, but not before Amber insults him, loudly. Oh, honey. Don't you know anything about rom-coms? You're gonna be so embarrassed later.
We get some establishing shots of Aldovia next, and it looks like an adorable, sprawling ski lodge. Thick snow carpets every surface — the pointy pine groves, the steep little rooftops... ugh. So cute.
A fleet of vans carry the press up to the palace, and Amber looks like a kid on her first day of school. She confesses to the reporter next to her that it's her first time covering anything. She asks for words of wisdom, but the surly veteran only says, "pick a new career."
He may be onto something, because the press conference is useless — the palace freaking cancels it. The beleaguered reporters file back into their vans, empty-handed, but the determined Amber decides to sneak back into the castle for a snoop.
Finding herself in a large hallway, Amber immediately starts snapping pictures on her phone. She's getting a closeup of a suit of armor when an imposing palace official finds her. Amber freaks out, but luckily she stammers long enough that the official draws his own conclusion — that she is Princess Emily's new tutor from America.
"Yes!" agrees Amber, hastily.
He leads her to the palace housekeeper, Mrs. Averill, who wears black, sheer hose with seams. It's a nice detail, and we can naturally conclude that Mrs. Averill works nights as a dominatrix.
Mrs. Averill greets "Martha Anderson," but mentions that the agency said Martha wouldn't be available until January.
Amber improvises, blathering that her schedule cleared up, so she came early. Mrs. Averill sneers, but the tall official who found Amber seems pleased. The queen, he says, wanted someone to occupy Princess Emily through the holidays, seeing how her last tutor fled the palace already.
Mrs. Averill gives in and takes Amber up to meet the queen, instructing her to curtsy. When they arrive at the royal office upstairs, however, they overhear her royal highness scolding 'Richard,' who is none other than... the missing prince! And Amber has met him before...
Richard apologizes for his earlier rudeness, and Mrs. Averill introduces "Martha" to the room.
Amber curtsies to the Queen, with moves torn straight from Swan Lake. It's genuinely hilarious. But before anyone can do anything more than gape, Princess Emily arrives to greet her brother.
The Princess is a young girl with an aristocratic face and curly red hair, and she walks with the aid of forearm-crutches. Richard greets her with a cry of, "my little imp!"
Emily protests that she's not imp, but is delighted when Richard lifts her up and spins her around in wild circles, making her legs (and crutches) fly out. The queen gets upset, assuming Emily will get hurt, but the princess squeals that being flung around feels good.
When Richard sets Emily down, they introduce the princess to "Martha," her new tutor. Amber greets Emily warmly, but the princess is hostile. Richard tells everyone to place their bets on how long Martha will last.
After Amber is dismissed, she backs up, curtsying, but she accidentally knocks over an enormous vase and it shatters all over the floor. Cringing, Amber asks the queen if it was... expensive?
"Only 15th century Ming porcelain," the queen replies coldly. The royal siblings have the grace to wait until Amber flees the room to start their tittering.
That night, Amber sneaks a phone call to her editor-in-chief, confessing that she's in the palace, undercover. The boss-lady tells Amber to get as many audio and video recordings as possible.
"Play this out," she commands, and Amber agrees, determined.
The following morning, Mrs. Averill leads Amber to Princess Emily's schoolroom.
"Go away," says the princess when she catches sight of her new tutor.
Amber ignores her rudeness and pulls out the chair next to the princess... but gasps when she catches sight of a mouse on the seat! Emily smiles demonically before plopping the pet rodent back in its enclosure.
Mrs. Averill, with practiced politeness, tells her royal highness to begin her lessons. Emily says she already began — with Modern Art. She holds up a crayon portrait of Mrs. Averill, disfigured by large facial warts.
Through gritted teeth, the housekeeper tells Emily the portrait is, "delightful."
Mrs. Averill leaves and Emily passes her geometry homework to Amber, who looks at the sheet of triangles with confusion. "Looks good!" she tells Emily, totally out of her ass.
Emily, pleased, concedes that she got a 92 on the state exam.
Amber tries to steer their studies away from math and towards writing, but Emily barrages her with questions. Amber, trying to keep her cover intact, gets flustered, but Emily interprets her discomfort incorrectly.
"It's called spina bifida," says the princess coldly, "and there is no cure." She's in a wheelchair today, and she pushes herself across the room to a window. "Poor little rich girl," Emily continues, looking morose. "That's what you're thinking."
Amber, concerned, goes to the princess and tells her, "brave little girl. That's what I was thinking," making the princess smile cautiously.
They hear a ruckus outside and look out the window to see Prince Richard practicing archery in the garden. Amber's eyes pop.
"How does some fresh air sound, your royal highness?" she asks Emily, who looks very pleased with her new tutor.
Amber, once she arrives in the garden, is gobsmacked because the prince has shaved. And goodness, he is pretty.
Emily mocks her brother's rusty archery skills, and asserts that she could do much better. He won't let her take a try with the bow, however, until Amber goads him into it. They arrange Emily's wheelchair perpendicular to the target. Richard hands her the bow and an arrow, muttering that if the queen saw this, she'd lop off his head.
"Better than lopping off something else," quips the Princess, shocking the socks off of Amber.
Emily aims and... shoots a bullseye. Triumphant, Amber demands a high five, and Emily acquiesces. It's clearly the first high five of her life.
"Miss Martha next," commands Emily, to Amber's horror. The siblings rib her about the lack of Ming vases in the vicinity, until Amber reluctantly takes up the bow.
The prince stands slightly behind her to show her how to nock the arrow and draw the bow, and Amber is so distracted that she sends the arrow off into the stratosphere. It crashes through a palace window (good draw, Amber!) and lodges in an oil painting.
Emily, Richard, and Amber quickly flee the scene, but not before Mrs. Averill catches sight of them.
Later, Amber is in her room, skyping with her friends at the magazine and trying to make sense of scatterplots (Oh, Amber). She hastily closes the laptop, however, when there's a knock at the door.
It's Mrs. Averill and Princess Emily, who is wearing a party dress. Mrs. Averill loftily explains that the royal family is hosting a cocktail hour for members of the nobility. Emily wishes for Amber to attend, as her personal guest. Amber accepts and by Emily's shy smile, it's obvious that she's really fond of her clumsy, new tutor.
At the shindig, a string quartet plays stately Christmas hymns, and well-dressed people mingle. Amber slurps her champagne nervously, and looks green when she's offered some aspic.
Across the room, the Prime Minister is asking the queen about Prince Richard's questionable aspirations to the throne. Smelling blood, a smarmy young man, Cousin Simon, swoops in and asks where on earth the heir could be.
Thankfully, Richard shows up at that moment, citing a case of missing cufflinks.
The two men spar verbally, and it's instantly clear that they loathe each other.
Across the room, Amber lies to Emily and tells her she's enjoying the party. She confesses, however, that jellied meat isn't her thing. Luckily, Princess Emily has already scouted out the Christmas cookies.
Tutor and pupil are feasting when Cousin Simon comes up to them and starts making snipes at Amber. He's cut off, however, when Prince Richard arrives and claims Simon is "compensating."
While the two men are distracted, Emily tells Amber that Simon is the heir after Richard. Amber smells a scoop.
Later, she's skyping with her pals at an escritoire. They are stoked at Amber's discovery of the "greedy cousin" angle. But Amber wants more one-on-one time with the prince — there's something she needs to suss out. Her friends immediately gather than Amber is smitten, though she protests.
But the next day, she stumbles upon Richard playing a "The First Noel" on the piano, and you can almost see the hearts in her eyes. After he catches her watching him, he explains that his late father made him take lessons. Amber confides that she lost her mom early, too.
"Holidays are the worst," she says.
"I'm glad [Emily] has someone to talk to," he agrees.
Then, Amber ruins the mood by pressing him for details about his possible abdication.
"It's difficult to know what to do," he says with discomfort, and makes an excuse to leave the room, to Amber's chagrin.
Later, at an intimate tree trimming ceremony, the royal family and their friends reminisce over the late King Richard's craftiness. He loved to carve, and made everyone handmade ornaments.
The queen presents a large acorn ornament, and shares that she found it hidden away after the king's passing. The family is all a bit weepy, especially after Amber shares how she and her dad always light a candle for her mom on Christmas.
Then, Richard's ex, Lady Sophia, arrives. It's clear that Cousin Simon would like to move in on her, but Sophia has some clear sights set on getting Richard back. She presents the royal family with a gaudy, silver heart ornament and commands Richard to hang it on the tree — "gently."
The next day, Amber discovers that her cover is blown. Princess Emily has snooped on her laptop and figured it all out. Horribly embarrassed, Amber is about to leave to pack her things, but Emily stops her. In exchange for keeping Amber's secret, she wants Amber to write a truthful story about Richard... also, no more lessons.
Elsewhere in the castle, Lady Sophia hunts down Richard. She squeezes onto his piano bench and offers to help him make a good impression at tomorrow's benefit. Richard protests that the event isn't about publicity — it's about helping orphans. Sophia tells Richard to get his head out of the clouds.
Richard isn't having it, though. He suggests that Sophia is attracted to his royalty, not to him. Sophia calls that unfair, but also confesses that her past self was "young and stupid."
"I made a mistake," she tells Richard.
The next day, Emily and Amber are enjoying themselves at the outdoor benefit, but Amber is horrified when a reporter recognizes her.
"How did you get cozy with the princess?!" he gapes.
Amber is about to dig a hole to hide in, but Princess Emily has it under control. She tells the reporter that if he doesn't stop bothering her guest, she'll have him thrown in the dungeon.
Up on a stage, some orphans sing a carol, and they are applauded by the queen, who introduces the keynote speaker, her son and their future king — Richard!
...but Richard is nowhere to be found.
Reporters immediately start yelling tough questions about the vacant throne to the queen, who looks like she might start crying.
Emily has a clue where he might be, though, and she and Amber run off to find him.
It turns out that Richard is building a snowman with the kids in the orphanage courtyard. It turns into a massive snowball fight, and Amber films it all on her phone. She's charmed. I'm charmed. You're charmed. We're all charmed, okay?
Later, though, Richard has to explain himself to the queen.
She's tough on him at first, berating him with the fact that during the hardest year of her and Emily's lives, he ran off. She gentles her tone, however, to confide that she believes her son is ready to be king.
The next day, in the schoolroom, Amber is trying to teach Emily about literary devices. The princess, however, is totally bored, and jumpy, since it's only three days until Christmas.
Amber takes pity on her and tells her they will go on an adventure.
They sneak out of the palace and head off into the hills with a toboggan. Amber picks a summit that looks truly terrifying, and Emily is justly freaked out. She doesn't want to wind up even more disabled!
"You're not a china doll," Amber reminds her.
The two sled down the giant hill, screaming the whole way down, and totally spill out at the bottom.
"Amber..." groans the princess, to Amber's horror, but it turns out the princess was faking. She wants to go again!
Richard, who is out horseback riding, stumbles across them, however, which begins a big snowball fight. It's girls versus boys, but the horse refuses to be part of their narrative.
Cousin Simon and Lady Sophia, out on a chauffeured sleigh ride, witness it all. Sophia notes the coziness between Amber and Richard with displeasure.
When the royal siblings and Amber arrive home, there is a reckoning. The queen knows about the rule-breaking. She puts the fear of God into the young people before remarking that its the happiest she's seen the princess in over a year.
As her parting shot, she scolds them for not inviting her.
That night, Amber types up her notes. She's getting closer to the prince, but she still believes there's something about him that she doesn't know. She resolves to find out more.
The next day, Amber lifts a horse from the royal stables in order to tail the prince, who is out on his own ride. He gets ahead of her in a pine forest, however, and Amber gets lost. She tries to direct her horse back to the palace, but her mount rears and Amber falls out of the saddle!
Amber is trying to find her way out of the snowy forest when night falls, and an honest to God wolf attacks her. Luckily the prince is there with a pistol to frighten off the beast. He takes her to a hunting cabin in the woods.
Inside, there is a roaring fire and an actual chandelier made of antlers. The prince gives Amber a steaming mug of an alcoholic Aldovian cure-all. Once Amber is comfortable, he asks why she was following him.
Amber admits that she is curious about him. Richard, for his part, explains that he comes to the hunting cabin (his father's) to reflect. The last time he was here with the king, they had a terrible fight.
The king was furious when Prince Richard said he would renounce the throne. Richard fled to Spain, and the king died shortly after.
Amber prods Richard to talk about his hesitation in accepting the kingship, but Richard shies away from the subject. Amber presses on, however, listing all of Richard's good qualities, which makes Richard laugh, remembering when he stole her cab.
He shows her one of his father's journals then, where he's discovered a pretty awesome poem that the king wrote for the queen. It kind of seems like a riddle, and it mentions a secret. Amber says it's mysterious.
"Yes," whispers the prince.
"It's beautiful," she adds.
"Yes," says the prince, leaning in.
The two are totally about to smooch, but they're interrupted by the sounds of disgruntled horses outside. The prince leaves to go check on the livestock.
While he's gone, Amber starts snooping at the late king's desk and discovers a lever that pops out a hidden tray. On it is a file...
In that, is a bombshell.
On an emergency skype sesh with her friends, Amber tells them her discovery — the prince is adopted. Amber is extremely hesitant to break this story, as she's certain the prince has no idea. Her friends, however, think she's nuts for choosing not to make her own career with this news. Amber is in agony, torn between her career and her empathy.
One person who does not have empathy is Lady Sophia. The following morning, she confronts Richard about his coziness with 'the peasant."
"Why don't you join us in the 21st century, Sophia," snaps Richard.
Sensing that she's losing her power, Sophia makes a Hail Mary pass, kissing him. Naturally, Amber chooses that moment to walk past and see it happen. She runs away before Richard pulls back and shuts Sophia down.
Later, Amber is in her room, poring over her purloined documents. Someone knocks at her door. It's Richard. He invites her to take a walk outside. Amber, still bitter from seeing Richard kissing Sophia (the day after they almost kissed) coldly refuses. Nevertheless, Richard persists, and Amber gives in.
Outside, the weather isn't the only thing that's chilly. Amber is rude to Richard, until he eventually pries the truth out of her — she saw him kissing Sophia. Richard explains that she saw incorrectly. Slowly, Amber thaws, and Richard invites her to the Christmas Eve ball — the one where he'll be coronated...
"Richard, there's something I need to tell you —"
But he stops her mouth.
Meanwhile, in the palace, Cousin Simon and Lady Sophia pick the lock on Amber's door. They dive into her things and immediately find "Amber Moore's" passport and Richard's adoption papers. Oh, shit.
The morning on the day of the ball, Richard rides to his father's grave in the snowy mountains. He kneels by the tomb and tells his father that he will accept the crown.
Amber is preparing for the evening, too, looking over the nicest outfit she brought with her to Aldovia — a tea-length cocktail dress. Emily arrives then, and grimaces at the attire.
"It's this or sweats," says Amber.
Emily gets real and tells Amber how much her company has meant to her the past few days.
She gives Amber a jewelry box — inside is bracelet with a snowflake charm.
"To remember our toboggan ride," she explains, and everybody on the screen and watching the screen is crying. Oh my God.
The girls hug, and that's it. I'm so won over to this movie.
There's a knock at the door — it's the makeover team that Princess Emily arranged! Amber won't have to wear a cocktail dress or sweats because they've brought ballgowns.
That night, Prince Richard greets the Prime Minister, and tells him he looks forward to working with him. The Minister is obviously pleased to hear it.
Then, Richard's attention is diverted, because Amber is coming down the stairs in a fabulous gown. It's blue, with an overlay of tarnished metallic lace and beads. Secretly underneath, however, she's wearing her red converse.
Richard gives her his arm at the landing and Amber asks him why everyone is staring at her.
"Because you look perfect," he says. "Shall we?"
He escorts her to the ballroom, where he invites her to waltz.
As they dance, mesmerized by each other, Cousin Simon and Lady Sophia enter the room. They are looking especially villainous, decked out in crimson and black.
On the dance-floor, Richard confesses that she is a large part of why he's at the ball tonight. Amber demurs, but he insists.
"You're more genuine than anyone I've ever met," he says, and Amber's face falls. Because, of course, she's been lying to him from the first.
The music stops, and it's time for Richard to be coronated. He asks for Amber to wish him luck.
"You don't need luck," she tells him, stoutly.
On the dais, the Prime Minister officiates the ceremony, asking Richard to promise to serve and protect Aldovia. He does so, solemnly. But before the crown can even touch his head, however, Lady Sophia interrupts, holding up Richard's adoption paperwork.
"This fraudulent Christmas prince is not the rightful king."
Everyone is stunned, but none more so than Richard. Then he's betrayed when Sophia exposes Amber as an undercover reporter.
Richard strides out of the ballroom, and Amber, horrified by what's she set into motion, follows him.
Cousin Simon takes the stage and announces he shall take the throne. He gestures to the simpering Lady Sophia, stating that she will be his queen.
On the staircase, Amber catches up to Prince Richard. He's distraught and furious.
"I don't know who you are. I don't know who I am."
"I'm Amber Moore," she tells him. "Things just got so out of hand."
But it's no good. Richard takes off, leaving her behind.
Amber flees the palace.
The next day, Richard confronts his father's portrait.
"Why didn't you tell me," he asks the late king, who, in an astonishing plot twist, turns out to be Ser Davos Seaworth.
The queen steps into the room and confesses everything to Richard. After she was married to Richard's father, they found out she was barren. When they adopted him, they did it secretly. Emily turned out to be a miracle baby.
Richard tells his mother that he fully embraces her and his late father as his true parents, and the queen weeps and says it's the best Christmas gift she's ever received.
At the parliament chamber, Cousin Simon and Lady Sophia sign their marriage paperwork. Simon then demands to be coronated. The Prime Minister objects, saying a majority of parliament and the queen must be in attendance.
At the airport, Amber calls her father, upset. She babbles about what happened, but her dad can make neither head nor tail of it. He nonetheless gives her some fatherly advice, which makes Amber recall the poem that the late king had written. She solves the riddle then and there — the king hid something inside the acorn ornament!
She races back to the palace, but has to contend with a stern Mrs. Averill. Luckily, Mrs. Averill wants Richard to be king badly enough that she takes a chance on Amber's hunch. They go to the Christmas tree and Amber pulls the cap off of the acorn. Inside, is a rolled up piece of paper...
Meanwhile, at parliament, the royal family and a quorum of the elected officials have arrived. There can be no further delay. It is Christmas, and Aldovia must have its king. Simon kneels on a satin cushion and recites his vows. He's almost crowned... but Amber and Mrs. Averill arrive!
They give the king's letter to the Prime Minister, and it turns out to be a decree that allows Richard to inherit the throne, though his bloodline isn't royal.
The Prime Minister takes the scepter away from Cousin Simon and proceeds to crown Richard the King of Aldovia.
As the parliament applauds him, King Richard scans the chamber, looking for Amber, but she's already gone...
Our next scene is in New York. Amber has written her article, but the editor at the magazine says it's worthless schmaltz. Amber had a chance to break a huge story — that the prince was adopted — but she blew it! Angrily, Amber quits.
As she packs her things, she promises her friends that she'll post her story somewhere else. It turns out to be on her own blog, titled... "Amber's Blog." Oh, Amber.
As she makes her own way, Amber helps her dad out at Rudy's Diner. On New Year's Eve, her friends stop by to eat some burgers and brag about Amber's pageviews. They invited an extra date with them should Amber want to tag along to the festivities, but Amber passes.
She's bussing the tables close to midnight, when someone throws a snowball at the diner window. She looks outside, and... Oh, my God. It's King Richard, standing outside on the snowy street!!!
Amber stumbles outside to get a closer look, but it's no apparition. Richard has flown to New York and tracked down Amber.
He explains to her that both he and Emily miss Amber terribly. He tells her how much she means to him. Then he gets down on his knee and opens up a ring box!!!
Amber is shocked. We're all shocked. It's way too soon... isn't it?
Amber lists all the reasons why getting engaged is crazy, but Richard shoots down each excuse.
"How long will you keep a king on his knees?" he asks. Great line.
Amber says yes. Midnight strikes, and the two kiss without even looking at a clock.
Now that's some good luck.
A Christmas Prince is a Christmas miracle. Thank you, Netflix.