Grade: B (maybe B-)
This one should have been an "A." It would have been save for a few vital things but we'll get to that at the end. The production value of it alone is pretty high. It even goes on location to far off Bucharest, Romania (standing in for England). Plus it has a Bond in it. Not the best Bond and maybe not even the second best Bond (it's so subjective once you get past Connery) but a Bond nonetheless. It opens with voice over and some quirky shots, which led me to think it might be a bit like one of my favorite shows, Pushing Daisies. The quirky ended pretty quick and we were thrust into a relatively standard and cheesy Christmas movie. Star Katie McGrath is gorgeous and lights up when she smiles. A romance novelist would describe her as having long, raven locks with alabaster skin, and pale green eyes the color of...well something pale and green. She is stunning but she is not trained and it sometimes shows.
The story is: SHE is Jules who works at an antique shop in Buffalo but because of an icky economy is laid off. Right. Before. Christmas. Awful. She heads home to her niece and nephew of whom she is legal guardian. Her sister and brother-in-law died recently so she's now not only supporting herself but also a boy who sounds like he sucks helium and is a klepto and a girl who is cute but mischievous. Before she even stops to think about how she's going to support everyone there's a knock at the door. A British butler is there to convince them to make a trip to the English countryside so the children can visit their absentee grandfather, the Duke of Castlebury Hall. You see, gramps disowned them years ago when their father married below his station. Since his son's death he's decided that life is too short. It doesn't take much convincing before she and the kids are whisked away to Castlebury. Oh and the butler's name is Paisley Winterbottom...you know, in case you didn't believe they were British enough.
Soon after arrival she meets her sister's husband's brother, Ashton. HE is, you guessed it, a prince. But he is, you guessed it, engaged. To a shrew. Gee, I wonder if that will later come into play. She and the rough edged, unsophisticated kids are out of place but a breath of fresh air in the stuffy castle. Broken from his son's death, the Duke isn't a fan of Christmas anymore but maybe, just maybe, they can convince him to love again and get into the Christmas spirit. Keep your fingers crossed kiddies. Roger Moore just may crack a smile before this TV movie is over!
My favorite part of the movie is the castle's staff. There are maids and footmen and housekeepers. They make me miss Downton Abbey in the worst way. I don't want to rush through Christmas, y'all, but Downton is on the other side of it and I just can't wait! Ooops, getting off the subject. Anywhoodle, the staff loves the kids, even helium boy and they absolutely adore Jules.
She and kids decide they're going to celebrate Christmas whether the Duke approves or not. They head into town to buy a tree and some decorations and this is where the location budget is spent. The town is adorable and so typically European. There's even a choir of orphans singing Christmas carols! They bring the tree and stuff home and the Duke not only approves but he decides to throw a ball. Well that's a 180 for ya! She is bummed because her dress isn't ball-appropriate. The staff is bummed on her behalf as well. Even they have ball-appropriate uniforms! Meanwhile, he has been observing and interacting with Jules and is slowly falling for her. QUELLE SUPRISE!
He clears up the misunderstanding, dumps his horrid fiance (who has title but no substance), and declares his love for Jules all in a matter of five minutes. They dance, fall in love and the Duke doesn't care that she's a poor chick from Buffalo. She's brought life back into Castlebury Hall. Honestly the movie gets very Princess Diaries by this point and it's terribly contrived. But it also happens to be pretty sweet. The ending? Well it's a happy one. DUH! It's a year later and there's a wedding. Let's hope they got a different dress designer.
Overall this was definitely one of the better ones but mostly because of the castle and the Romanian location. No, really. The story was unoriginal, the acting was so-so, the boy was awful, and the caricatures of the fiance and others were too over-the-top. But the prince was hot and it had a Bond.