Usually I do not see the new seasonal movies that air on Hallmark channel (or any "cable" network) until the following year when - and if they release to DVD. In 2011, this film was released in the U.K. and Canada, and was one I REALLY wanted to see; it was my one "guilty pleasure" buy. It looked so sweet and because it starred Katie McGrath from "Merlin." Turns out despite the fact that I shouldn't have bought it, it was well worth it.
Christmas should be a time of joy and family traditions but this Christmas should especially be a happy one, and Jules Daly (McGrath) is determined to give that to her niece and nephew. Since her sister and brother-in-law died the year prior, Jules has been trying her best to make a new home for these kids who she now looks on as her own but... Milo (Travis Turner) is a teenager who doesn't want his aunt to assert a parental authority in any part of his life while young Maddie is a seven-year-old who probably won't even remember her parents as she grows up. Just after she loses her job, a proper English butler, by Paisley Winterbottom (Miles Richardson) shows up on Jules doorstep. He has come to the states as a representative of the Duke of Castlebury Hall (Roger Moore) in order to persuade Jules to bring her niece and nephew to England in order to visit their grandfather. Unhappy about the situation, Jules refuses because she cannot see subjecting the kids to a visit with the royal in-laws who refused the existence of their son following his choice to marry a commoner - Jule's sister. After thought, Jules has a change of heart, and off the trio goes to England to spend Christmas with dukes and duchesses - and even a prince in the form of Uncle Ashton (Sam Heughan).
Confession time: I absolutely adored this movie. For practical reasons, I can't say it was because this is a sweeping epic based off a true story or because it has a beautiful spiritual bent, but because there is a fairy-tale quality that I couldn't help but love. To be honest, the movie starts out a bit rocky. In the opening frames, the director seemed to engage in a bit of awkward filming and the camera shots don't seem to do anything to compliment the actors, but once that passes - it is probably gone before fifteen minutes have passed, the viewers can settle in for an adorable, sweet little movie. The "adventure" of the whole movie is a lot of fun also. Jules wasn't sure that it was right to introduce Milo and Maddie to the grandfather who thought nothing of their mother, but eventually she realized that they might have the right to know their grandfather and it was that decision that led to a wonderful Christmas filled with joy - and maybe even the potential for a beautiful future.
The acting in this one was actually nothing to scoff at - Katie held her own against veteran Roger Moore (part of the James Bond fame) although as an Irish actress, there were occasions where ever the slightest hint of her accent slipped into her American dialogue. Still, she was great, plus she and Sam were really cute together. If there are any real faults or clichés, it is in the script which can sometimes take its talent for granted. Nevertheless this is a wonderful little family film - all warm and fuzzy as it finds just the right moods of festiveness, and yet, captures a real emphasis on family and its importance. Also known as 'Christmas at Castlebury Hall' (which is what it released under in Canada) and 'A Christmas Princess' (the U.K.), this film is available in Katie's home land and is slated to release here, in America in October 2012.
Production crews found some really pretty sets (like the castle) and the camera often pans some gorgeous scenery. There is a pretty ball room scene and I was pleasantly surprised that the movie moved away from a few of the trivial expectations I had of it. If you like British productions or just happy-go-lucky romances, check into this one. I thought the ending was adorable and I liked how the characters interacted - including the servants with Jules and the kids. In that way, this movie actually reminded me (albeit very loosely) of Downton Abbey. This is definitely one of my most loved Christmas films from 2011 - I am so glad I was able to see it; A Princess for Christmas is just another charming `hallmark' of why this channel is oh-so-popular.
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