Thanks to the Thanksgiving Hallmark Movie Bomb, I’m slowly making my way through the films. It’s a bit out of order from the release dates, but that’s because I’m selecting the ones with the dumbest titles. Allow me to present Christmas at the Palace.
Katie, a former professional ice skater (Patterson), is hired by the king of San Senova, Alexander, to help his daughter in a Christmas ice skating performance. As Katie spends time in the castle and with the king, she and Alex begin to develop feelings for each other and ultimately fall in love. But will the tradition-loving people of San Senova allow their king to make a foreigner their queen? Starring Merritt Patterson and Andrew Cooper.
The film kicks off with delightful Christmas music that puts me in that wintery mood. A beautiful woman watches another beautiful woman ice skate in what appears to be a Christmas ice skating extravaganza. When the ice skater finishes and the crowd applauds, this cues the other woman, Katie, to hurry backstage and say nonsense like “Don’t forget to smile!”, “Nathan, you’re still recovering. Don’t do the triple axel,” and “Perfect spiral!” to a series of random extras. The camera follows her – Aaron Sorkin style – and this ice skating extravaganza is her own personal West Wing.
Katie meets with the performer, Jessica, and they discuss their big plans. Once this Christmas tour is over, they’ll have enough money to buy an ice-skating rink in New Jersey! They can end their itinerant lives. But before this happens, they need to go to their final tour stop: San Senova. I assume this is an Italian microstate.
In San Senova, we’re introduced to our male lead. He has a British accent. So apparently this Englishman is the king of a country called SAN SENOVA which also happens to look like Budapest. Was this a former colony that they banished one of the more unsavory royals to? I wish that just once, they’d get a Geordie or Mancunian to be the royal in one of these films. It would make just as much sense as this currently does. Anyway, King talks to his best man, Nicholas, who is dreadfully formal. They’ve known each other for 30 years and King Alex wants him to stop addressing him by his title. Alex or Al or Alpo should work.
In his study, King Alex bemoans the fact that his public relations team is doing a terrible job.
King Alex isn’t living up to his family’s legacy. His father founded the Christmas Market, the annual Caroling Concert, and the holiday benefit for the community centre. There’s not a lot to govern in San Senova so their kings are basically mayors. Alex said Christmas was “good for the economy” so the peasants revolted and wrote an unflattering article in the newspaper. Nicholas instructs his superior to check himself or the peasants will do much worse next time.
Later that evening, King Alex visits his daughter Christina to apologize for skipping a dinner he was meant to have with her. He makes another empty promise and Christina just sort of accepts it. She tells papa about her ice skating lesson and he tells her she should go to sleep. She wants to finish her Christmas movie, but instead King Alex spoils the ending for her and shuts off her tablet.
The next morning, the king arrives at the Christmas market to make a speech. He stands behind the stage with his gentleman-in-waiting like some sort of key grip. Katie and Jessica have arrived in San Senova and are perusing the Christmas market. She takes an odd detour and literally runs into King Alex while he’s rehearsing his speech. His bodyguards are on holiday. She madly flirts with him which should pay off because he’s a king. (She doesn’t know that yet though.) King Alex has a difficult time explaining why he likes Christmas and is as emotive as Hayden Christensen in the Star Wars prequels. As King Alex steps on stage, he knocks over the Christmas decorations. They were cheap anyway.
That evening, Christina attends Katie and Jessica’s ice skating show. She’s got nosebleed seats. After the show, Christina meets the performers backstage. Christina is starstruck by Jessica and Katie. In a former life, Katie almost made it to the Olympics. The young princess asks for professional ice skating lessons and the two women weasel their way into a private tour of the palace.
During the tour, Katie excuses herself to do a number one, gets lost, and runs straight into King Alex’s parlor where he is reading the paper. Staff and security are foreign concepts to the people of San Senova. Katie asks what the king is like because she’s dense. King Alex lies and uses positive words to describe himself. Katie negs King Alex, telling him that he doesn’t have enough Christmas decorations. This is also a lie.
Later, Christina asks her papa if she can use the palace’s ice skating rink to put on a pageant. King Alex is hesitant for Christmas Eve is but a fortnight away! He says no, but Christina guilts him enough to get him to speak to Katie and Jessica.
King Alex summons the women to his study. Before he arrives, Jessica starts touching everything in the room which is the height of rudeness. King Alex enters and Katie is shocked that she’s been flirting with the king. He requests that they arrange an ice skating pageant for his daughter. The ladies disagree on what to do.
King Alex offers them a huge sum of money and rooms in the palace. The money is enough to fund their dream of owning an ice skating rink. This gives them something to chew on.
After some time with Christina and her aunt, Katie and Jessica decide to go for it. The ladies make themselves at home at the palace and are invited to an evening party. The king straight up ignores Jessica to compliment Katie and then takes her so that he may speak to her for the rest of the party.
The next day, the women plan the ice skating pageant. Katie goes to town to work on set décor and costumes. The first shop she visits generously agrees to provide all decorations for free. King Alex has no work to do so he saunters into the shop to “run errands.” He tells Katie that he personally selects the gifts for the staff himself. Katie negs his decision to give them cards and money.
Katie returns to the ice skating rink to see Christina skate. She’s very talented, but decided not to tryout for the main princess role because she’s scared she’ll fail. Katie gives the young girl a pep talk. King Alex spies on the conversation and begins to warm to Katie. He visits Katie later that night to say he’s single. His wife is dead (and his father is too but that’s unrelated). He tells her she can call him Alex.
At the skating rink, Christina is having another mini meltdown. Her father arrives to cheer his daughter up with a surprise Christmas tree decorating bonanza. Katie joins and they bond like a real family.
The next day, Jessica experiences an accident which puts her out of commission for three weeks. It’s not all bad news though. An ice skating rink is available at home for them to buy.
King Alex asks Katie for advice on Christmas gifts for the staff. Katie says he should make handmade things. She literally has him sit in front of the sewing machine. They make the staff gifts, but no Christmas montage.
The next day, Christina has cold feet again and doesn’t want to be in the pageant. Now that Jessica is out, all the attention will be on the skating princess. Katie gives her another pep talk and promises to be Christina’s skating partner in the pageant.
King Alex invites the ladies to the royal Christmas tea event. He mentions that tradition demands he bake cookies for it and Jessica volunteers Katie to assist. Katie collects Christina to help with the cookie making. This is such a weird tradition for a stuffy king. Katie notices that the tea event is incredibly un-festive. In some of the shots, no one moves. It’s creepy. The King leaves his own party to show Katie the gifts he made for the staff. He made like two gifts.
It’s bedtime and Katie can’t sleep. She goes downstairs and sees Alex looking at papers again. They go to the kitchen to make hot chocolate. They bond some more. King Alex asks her if she has a “beau.” No one talks like this, even if they have an accent. He kind of alludes that since Christina likes Katie, he and her should date.
In the morning, Jessica says that the ice rink has other potential buyers so she should go home to check up on it. Katie is now in a foreign country without her bud.
We go through more scenes of King Alex and Katie bonding. Fun fact: the star on the San Senova’s flag is the Christmas star. I believe it’s safe to assume San Senova is a Christian nation. In one of the scenes, they almost kiss, but a phone call from Jessica interrupts.
King Alex wrestles with his feelings. Nicholas tries to guide him through it. He even shows him that the front page of the country’s newspaper is focused on his potential relationship with Katie. There’s a shortage on actual headline news in San Senova.
Jessica calls Katie to tell her that another person is going to buy the rink in Trenton. She doesn’t want to make the decision without Katie. Katie uses this excuse to tell Christina that she can’t be in the pageant because she has to fly home, breaking the girl’s heart. Douche move. She even leaves without telling King Alex. People from New Jersey are rude.
King Alex saves the disaster by volunteering to skate with Christina. He cancels the stuffy Christmas dinner with dignitaries to have a quiet dinner with the family.
In New Jersey, Jessica gives Katie the keys to the rink and a gift: ice skates. Jessica encourages her friend to go back to the tiny country and date Alex. She’s the one that dragged Katie back. Why is she doing this to her? Katie goes on exchange, swapping places with Nicholas. He stays in New Jersey to run the rink while Katie goes to potentially be a queen. The US visa situation is must be nice to San Senovians.
She arrives just in time for the skating pageant. The private ice skating rink appears to fit only 60 audience members so either San Senova is very small or this new Christmas tradition is only for the crème de la crème.
King Alex makes a grand speech which causes the 60+ audience to erupt in applause. He gives the ground to Katie who beautifully figure skates around the King and princess. They didn’t even try to get a woman who looked like Katie to do the figure skating though.
After the show, King Alex tells Katie, a woman he’s known for four weeks max, that he loves her. The peasant and the king of a tiny country that may or may not have been a former colony of Great Britain kiss. FIN.
I tend to have crap feelings towards royal Christmas films. They should get an Eastern European lead since they always film these in Romania, but I guess British is “sexier.” The titular couple was so bland. Just because he’s an English king didn’t mean he didn’t have to have a monotone speaking voice. Katie was fine but wasn’t enough to carry King Alex. The other couple was better. I felt a bit bad for the daughter. She just had to mope most of the film which isn’t very fun, especially since she’s a child that was cast in a Christmas film.
The next film I’ll be looking at is Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe. You must have a minimum of two Jane Austen inspired movies for Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas.
- The Grinch King is a really cool title and I’d love to take up that nickname.
- There’s a running gag about plum pudding. We enter conversations halfway through where a person says something similar to “and he was covered in plum pudding!” Everyone laughs. It’s impossible to be covered in Christmas pudding. It’s a solid.
- San Senova used to be a huge estate, not a kingdom. But after some annexing involving ice skating, boom, a kingdom was born.
- Katie serves hot chocolate out of a teapot. The teapot is now ruined.
- Cliché alert: “Christmas is a time to open our hearts.” NO ONE ACTUALLY SAYS THESE THINGS IN REAL LIFE.
- King Alex’s mother died when he was young, his wife died six years ago, and his dad three years ago. It’s only a matter of time for Katie.
- Christina watches a Christmas movie which is clearly one of the Hallmark ones. I think it’s one with Lacey Chabert.
- Find the rest of the recap/reviews here.