Even at this early stage of her public journey, Meghan Markle has gifted the world many things. How to wear a boat neck. Why messy buns are chic. That freckles are divine at a wedding.
Now, even though she’s given up her C-list acting career to devote herself to higher civic purposes, Meghan is still giving and giving and giving when it comes to showbiz.
Her latest offering? The way her unbelievable real-life story – starlet meets world’s most eligible prince on blind date and marries him, dear reader – has spawned an entire subsection of the entertainment industry.
The made-for-TV Christmas royal romance movie.
Last year, inspired by Meghan’s fantastic change in fortune, Netflix cranked out instant classic original A Christmas Prince.
Plot: A journalist goes undercover over Christmas to write about the royal family of a small European country. She falls for the prince. Audiences fell for it, so much so that a sequel will be released on November 30.
The huge success means a very precise formula has now developed for the new genre of cheesy royal-commoner Christmas love stories.
Meghan’s story is the template for the firmly established conventions. A professional American girl-next-door type meets a prince in unlikely circumstances. Obstacles and often snowball fights crop up, there’s a dusting of sexless platonic kissing and a happy ending.
But now, thank you Duchess of Sussex, Christmas doesn’t come just once a year for Netflix.
Based on global fervour for all things Meghan and the runaway success of A Christmas Prince, the streaming platform is releasing not one, but a trio of platonic holiday royal romances this year.
The first, The Holiday Calendar, debuted on November 2. The second, the Vanessa Hudgens vehicle The Princess Switch, was released on November 16 to reviews as mixed as your grandmother’s plum pudding.
To entertainment site NPR, the movie is “half-baked but diverting”. ReadySteadyGo called it “pleasant but dull”. Refinery29 saw something else, calling it “superb” and “better than A Christmas Prince“.
Interest piqued, the only thing for it was to slip into a velvet ballgown with boned bodice, grab a box of Quality Street and hit play.
The Princess Switch crams a lot in: A baking contest, a duchess who wants to be a “normal girl”, carriage rides in the snow, orphans with big hearts but no toys, John Lennon quotes, ballgown reveals, piano duets, lovers’ tiffs about sexism and family jewels.
It sticks to the tried-and-tested Christmas romance formula but with an identical strangers switcheroo twist a la The Parent Trap.
It owes plenty of other cinematic nods to the 1998 film including weird tension between a kindly dominatrix personal assistant and male factotum, a Bridget Jones-esque English accent and secret handshakes.
The first 15 minutes are diabolical and ham-fisted. It would have been just as effective to have someone read dot points to camera. Anyway, Chicago baker Stacey (Hudgens) is recovering from heartbreak and wins a place in a cake contest in fictional European enclave Belgravia.
She takes along her BFF and bakery right-hand man Kevin (Nick Sagar) and literally bumps into Lady Margaret Delacorte, the fiancee of Belgravia’s Prince Edward (Sam Palladio).
Margaret (Hudgens again) is a dead ringer for Stacey and before she can say “shall we?” ropes the commoner into posing as her for a couple of days.
Suddenly Stacey – with a quick haircut – is hanging out with the royal family and Margaret is eyeing off a shirtless Kevin when he comes looking for toothpaste in the house they’re sharing.
From here, everybody can have a shot at guessing how things work out while enjoying lashings of standard romance movie tropes, including the woman who shakes up a royal family with her compassion and the woman who needs to learn to live a little.
There’s few surprises, clunky dialogue and a few mysteries, namely the point of the mysterious Christmas Man who keeps putting in his two cents worth, and why is a duchess wearing knockoff Chanel mini-skirted suits with God-awful shoes.
Mostly, The Princess Switch is twee, slightly embarrassing and a lovely guilty pleasure.
Not that it actually matters. Christmas royal romances are quality-proof, and their point isn’t intellectual depth but giving into easy seasonal charm.
Meghan, let’s raise a glass of eggnog to you.