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For her whole life, 17-year-old Lily Brooks (Haley Pullos) has been raised solely by her mother, architect Allison (Tara Reid), never even knowing the name of her father. But unbeknownst to Lily, Allison actually does know the identity of her daughter's father: King Charles of Baltania (Ingo Rademacher), who was formerly the prince of the small European country when he and Allison met in college before their relationship came to an abrupt end after winter break.
Now all these years later, Charles is back in the States on business and wants to reconnect with Allison, regretful over the events that led to their abrupt split. After his surprise reappearance has Allison too heartbroken and angry to hear him out, Charles begins working with his former roommate Sam (Mykel Shannon Jenkins) to reconcile with Allison. Meanwhile, Lily recognizes her mother's strange behavior and works to figure out how it coincides with the recent appearance of the high profile Royal—which may lead her to make a shocking discovery regarding her parentage.
For my final Christmas review of the year, I couldn't have found a more festive pick than Ion Network's 2017 offering A Royal Christmas Ball. From the reviews I've seen, it seems that some critics have nothing but vitriol for this film, which I feel is mostly unfounded. Sure, A Royal Christmas Ball (which has a title that really doesn't apply to much of its plot) can strike some as annoyingly corny, but for viewers familiar with the made-for-TV Christmas formula, the film has a charm to it that keeps A Royal Christmas Ball from being another penny in the fountain of Hallmark-ian holiday flicks.
The cast is mostly to thank for this, with soap opera alum Ingo Rademacher bringing charm in buckets as King Charles, while also selling his emotional motions throughout the film (if you can watch the scene where he learns the truth about Lily without feeling your heart melt, please see a cardiologist). Tara Reid and Haley Pullos also work well off each other as a mother-daughter duo, and Pullos in particular sells Lily well as an adorkable teenager struggling to comprehend the true about her parentage, while also not turning bratty as a result of the revelation (despite name dropping the "You Can't Tell Me What To Do, Mom!" trope midway through the film's third act). Mira Furlan is surprisingly faceted as the film's main antagonist, and Kennedy Lea Slocum is clearly having a blast playing Lily's supportive and equally quirky best friend Taylor. The chemistry between Rademacher, Reid, and Pullos is matched by Rademacher's chemistry with Mykel Shannon Jenkins, whose portrayal of his former college roommate Sam is equal parts comedic and heartwarming.
Aesthetically, A Royal Christmas Ball also fares well. While the fairy tale storybook motif came off as a bit overkill, the sets are all beautifully shot, with the conclusion being the highlight despite a poorly done green screen effect. Additionally, in regards to nitpicking, there's a "Pair The Spares" moment between Sam and Allison's co-worker Eva, with their romantic subplot coming off as unnecessary padding that could've easily not existed in the first place, given how little it adds to the film. The film also begins with a recap of how the film ultimately concludes, which ultimately does nothing but add to the overbearing storybook motif and spoil the film for viewers going into it blind.
Overall, though, regardless of flaws, A Royal Christmas Ball is a heartwarming film centered around family and fighting for what you love, making it the ideal film to watch with family and friends during the holiday season. Hopefully, Ion Network will realize the universal sentiment of this film and make it one of their repeated airing features for every holiday season.
Score: 9 out of 10 Homecoming Queen tiaras.