Friday, January 04, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Crown for Christmas (2015)

CROWN FOR CHRISTMAS (2015) is an especially delightful Christmas film from the Hallmark Channel.

Danica McKellar stars as Allie Evans, an artist who gave up her dreams of furthering her education and career to raise her younger siblings (Rose Neville and Rolla Skinner) after their parents died. She's been working as a maid in a high-end New York City hotel when an unfortunate incident leads to her losing her job just before Christmas.

King Maximilian (Rupert Penry-Jones) of a tiny European country is staying on the VIP floor at the hotel with his aide Fergus (Pavel Douglas), who learns of Allie's situation. He likes the young woman so he checks out her background and then offers her a temporary position overseas serving as governess to the widowed king's young daughter, Princess Theodora (Ellie Botterill).

Theodora is a terror, but she eventually warms up to Allie, who understands what it's like to lose a mother. Allie is awkward when it comes to court protocol yet unflappably friendly and honest, and most of the staff fall in love with her, excepting Chancellor Riggs (Colin McFarlane) and the chief housekeeper (Amy Wick).

Max is also attracted to Allie's honesty and the way she brings the proverbial "breath of fresh air" to his stuffy castle. Chancellor Riggs fears that Allie will scotch his plans for Max to marry an "appropriate" old flame, Celia of Luxembourg (Alexandra Evans)...

CROWN FOR CHRISTMAS has some familiar themes -- including several borrowed from THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) -- but there is much pleasure in the way it puts its own spin on a well-worn nanny turned Cinderella story.

When Princess Theodora announces "I don't need a governess" and Allie conspiratorially responds "I'm not a real governess. I'm a New Yorker," we know they'll become fast friends, and indeed they do, making Christmas tree ornaments, playing in the snow, and baking cookies.

Incidentally McKellar, who has a second career as a mathematics scholar and advocate for children understanding and liking math, no doubt worked in the fractions lesson during the baking sequence! (Her explanatory book on middle school math was a tremendous help for our younger daughter a number of years ago.) She's delightful and does a good job balancing "fish out of water" comedy with her character also being grounded and thoughtful.

Just like in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, the widowed father hasn't done a good job communicating with his daughter, who seeks his attention with inappropriate behavior, and the fancy prospective wife threatens to send the young girl off to boarding school. As I've written in the past, I see Hallmark films rather as I do Westerns -- there may be a handful of stories and themes which repeat over and over, but the interest lies in each film's unique presentation.

There are some wonderfully original touches to this story, including the Christmas gifts Allie gives to the staff. When the mean housekeeper opened her gift, I teared up. What it said about Allie, her character, and what she could see in people spoke volumes.

Botterill and Penry-Jones are excellent, with Douglas and Emma Burdon-Sutton (playing the cook) standouts in support.

CROWN FOR CHRISTMAS was directed by Alex Zamm and filmed on location in Romania by Viorel Sergovici.

This film turns up regularly as part of the Hallmark Channel's Christmas programming, and it's also available on DVD.

A Hallmark Channel featurette with cast interviews previews the movie.

This is a real "feel good" film with left me with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye. Recommended.


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