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Humble Philadelphia seamstress Emily Taylor (Lacey Chabert) has a wonderful boyfriend Leo (Stephen Hagan) who happens to have been hiding a big secret: he’s a prince. How fetch is that? No, this isn’t a new season of Secret Princes, but Hallmark Channel’s A Royal Christmas.
A Royal Christmas is one part Cinderella, two parts The Princess Diaries, a dash of Wills and Kate, and a pinch of “win a trip to Downton Abbey.” After the revelation of his royal heritage, Leo whisks Emily off to the tiny sovereign nation of “Cordinia,” where she meets his disapproving mother, Queen Isadora (Jane Seymour, who tries to ruin Christmas!) Isadora wants Leo to marry a duchess named Natasha — never a heroine’s name — who she finds more suitable than this commoner. (As a fun in-joke, Natasha, who Isadora loves and says is “just like her,” also happens to be Seymour’s daughter, Katherine Flynn).
The sweet and charming Emily finds friends both upstairs and downstairs, but it’s not enough to shield her from Isadora’s ice queen act, which eventually drives a wedge between her and Leo. There’s plenty of light humor to be found in Isadora’s derision, though; when Emily gives her the gift of a Philadelphia snow globe, Isadora channels Downton‘s Dowager Countess with her comment, “how charming … a cracked bell and a little bald man. Put it somewhere special,” she instructs the kind head butler, Victor (Simon Dutton), which Leo translates later means “the compost.”
The cast, particularly Chabert and Seymour, are all natural and likable; even Flynn gives her Regina George-esque character some dimension. Though a B-plot involving a tiny orphan girl named Poppy has a hefty dose of schmaltz, it’s a Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel — there’s going to be an orphan who finds a family. Embrace it. A Royal Christmas hits all the notes it should in a diverting way: there’s an obligatory ball preparation montage, Emily learning how to waltz thanks to Victor, as well as a show-stopping staircase descent. Lessons are learned, snow falls, and love prevails. If that isn’t fetch, then what is?
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