Lifetime Review: 'The Wrong Prince Charming'
A classic Hallmark trope is given a Lifetimey coat of paint in this refreshingly entertaining Wrong thriller.
Anna Fortner (Cristine Prosperi) is the in-house counsel and vice president of a real estate agency, and she and her boss Bridget Davis (Vivica A. Fox) are ecstatic over their latest project. Prince Edward of Devonshire (James Nitti) is interested in investing with one of their hotel properties, and if all goes well, it'll be the agency's most lucrative deal yet. Upon meeting Edward and his business associate Liam (Jonathan Stoddard), Anna and Bridget are further convinced things will be smooth sailing. Both men are knowledgeable in business, and as Anna works closely with Edward to finalize their deal, the pair begin an unexpected romance.
But Edward is far from a storybook prince. Unbeknownst to Anna and Bridget, Edward and Liam are a pair of deceptive con artists intent on swindling them out of their investment money. And as complications arise that threaten to ruin Edward's plans, Anna's fairytale love is about to take a very dark turn...
As soon as I learned the premise behind this latest Wrong film, my interest couldn't have been more piqued. The Wrong Prince Charming sounded like writer Adam Rockoff took the plot of a royal Hallmark movie (average woman meets and falls in love with royalty) and gave it a Lifetime-ian makeover. In fact, I have a theory that no one will be able to convince me isn't the truth: Rockoff took the script for his 2020 holiday film A Royal Christmas Engagement, tweaked it up a bit, and The Wrong Prince Charming was born. Both movies even star James Nitti as a prince named Edward! And thankfully, after two Wrong thrillers that turned out to be boring duds, The Wrong Prince Charming lived up to my expectations as an entertaining drama with an exceptional cast.
After enduring The Wrong Real Estate Agent's painfully unsubtle attempt at a snake-in-the-grass villain, James Nitti's Prince Edward was exactly what I needed. Whereas Andres Londono made little to no effort to mask Charles Milton's craziness, Nitti is effortlessly deceptive as the outwardly suave Prince Edward. With his alluring accent and eloquent demeanor, you can see why people would fall under Edward's spell so easily. Nitti particularly amps up the charm whenever Edward is seducing Anna, in turn saving Anna from becoming frustratingly dense. Between Nitti's performance and his chemistry with Cristine Prosperi, you understand why Anna falls so hard for Edward. Wrong-saga-newcomer Jonathan Stoddard is just as convincing as Edward's equally charismatic cohort Liam, with he and Nitti giving fierce performances when Liam and Edward show just how cold and calculating they truly are.
The film's protagonists are played by a pair of women more familiar with the "Wrongverse", with both giving the strong performances I've grown accustomed to. Prosperi makes for a lovable lead, so much so that you might cringe at seeing Anna's "romance" with Edward blossom, knowing it's all a lie. As the film goes on and Anna begins to clue into the truth about Edward, Prosperi throws herself into Anna's emotions--particularly in the short-but-explosive climax. Vivica A. Fox plays well off of Prosperi as Anna's boss Bridget, selling the supportive friendship between them as well as Bridget's status as the head of a successful real estate company. Their characters are slightly hampered by the truth behind Edward and Liam's scheme. Even allowing for suspension of disbelief, SPOILER ALERT a conman just happening to identically resemble a prince is too much to buy into. It's also fairly hard to believe that it would take so long for such a massive ruse to be uncovered by two competent businesswomen. Spoilers Over But thanks to the overall likable protagonists and enjoyable atmosphere of the movie, this hard-to-stomach truth is made easier to digest.
In better news, the limited supporting cast give solid performances. Jasmine Aivaliotis does well enough with her standard Genre Savvy BFF role (Anna's co-worker friend Heather), and Jeremy Sry's side role as Heather's boyfriend Joey is a fine improvement over his awkward cameo in The Wrong Boy Next Door. Tracy Nelson has a strong presence as the helpful and empathetic Detective Klein and, despite some unexpected stiff line deliveries, Jamie Bernadette brings a similar energy to Mia Phillips (as does Morgan Dixon as her stern-but-caring stepsister Carrie). SPOILER ALERT While the intrigue-building cold open doesn't get the payoff it deserves from Mia's generic history with "Edward", Bernadette uses her limited screentime to throw herself into Mia's anger-fueled quest to get her money back from her man who manipulated and betrayed her. And unlike recent past instances where I've gotten mad at a Lifetime character for accepting a drink prepared by a man who has severely wronged them, Mia doing so with Edward is more understandable. He may've scammed her, but from what Mia knew about Edward, she had no reason to think he was capable of murder until it was too late.
(One last Mia-related grievance: this image on the movie's IMDB page was infuriatingly misleading. It had me thinking we'd be seeing Jamie Bernadette's first Lifetime villainess role, only to be left disappointed that it wasn't to be) Spoilers Over
In milder issues, the finale drags out a little longer than necessary and there's a scene with a green-screened-in background that (even taking into account the film's presumed low budget) was way too noticeable to forgive. But when compared to some of the Wrong movies that closely precede it, The Wrong Prince Charming's flaws are easier to deal with. The consistent story flow will keep you engaged, the protagonists are likable and avoid becoming irritatingly naïve, and the villains are fun to watch do their thing. Plus, as a Hallmark buff, seeing one of their common recurring plotlines get retooled into a Lifetime drama was a bonus treat. And with the movie ending on a delicious potential sequel hook, here's hoping David DeCoteau and company will capitalize on it by giving this royally fun thriller a follow-up feature.
Score: 8 out of 10 V8s.