The fact that I forgot to review this movie (forgot I watched it, in fact) may be an indicator as to how I felt about it. But with that jab out of the way, I have to say: I didn’t hate it.
Netflix’s A Castle for Christmas is the 2021 slot-in for the category of film that was, for a few years, dominated by the same company’s A Christmas Prince trilogy. While that series of films are a fun (and beautiful in 4K) franchise to hate-watch for their cheese and poor, trite scripting, I must say that A Castle for Christmas is wholly inoffensive, and even kind of enjoyable in a bland, dulcet way.
Shields plays a successful author, whose audience have turned on her after her choice to kill off a fan favorite character. People including cameo act Drew Barrymore openly speculate that the decision by Shields’s character is in frustration over her own real-life divorce. She decides to get in touch with her Scottish roots by traveling to Scotland and visiting the castle in which her grandfather grew up as a servant.
There, she meets a crusty apparent groundskeeper played by Elwes. We know long before she does that he will be revealed as the owner of the castle, because we have seen the poster and she hasn’t. But once this is revealed, tensions rise between the two. She is JK Rowling wealthy and able to buy the castle, which she decides to do. Elwes’s character isn’t interested in selling, but he would like to buy some more time with her deposit before driving her off—he and his castle are in dire financial straits and sooner or later, it is destined to change hands. By entertaining her and then forcing her out (in violation of her contract) he intends to keep the castle a little longer.
You know precisely how it will play out, but the whole exercise is made pleasant by a cast of pleasant side characters to support the charming leads. Sometimes that is all a holiday film has to do, is just be consistently pleasant.
I don’t think the movie would have been half as tolerable without Elwes and Shields, but even without them it would have ben a better film than any of the Christmas Prince series.
I wouldn’t mind watching it again someday, and I’m giving it a holiday-adjusted rating of 4 out of 10, and calling it Bad, where Bad has to reflect that this is, for all my lack of complaints, still a cheap and cynical, low-effort seasonal cash-grab picture made not for its own sake but to keep Netflix’s holiday stable full and growing. You could do a lot worse than A Castle for Christmas, though.