So, I have a thing about Carousels. I love them. I love them in Mary Poppins, I love them at Six Flags, I love them everywhere, even in Disney World where they are misspelled (look it up). So what could go wrong with movies that combine Carousels and Christmas…and, dare I say it, vague European royalty? Let’s ride onward to A Carousel Christmas!
We start in a town on a seashore with a big church. It’s VERY snowy there, but it doesn’t stop kids from coloring in the outside. Heroine is Miss Thomas, some kind of teacher, whose favorite Christmas memory centers around a carousel that she is showing these precocious children. She’s a grown woman wearing a hat with a big old pom-pom on the top, and I’m sorry, but I’ve never been fan of that look, like, ever. Miss Thomas’s great-grandfather built the carousel and all the kids get a ride. She also is a restorer of carousels. There’s also a “Wishing Horse” on the carousel. And now, her dream job opening up in the school district…will she apply?
Dad is telling his daughter Miss Thomas to wish on the wishing horse for a good man. Because Dads. Dad is also a widower going on 8 years, and is lonely, but before they can get to talking about the job at the school, dad gets a call on his cell phone that is going to turn this movie into a royal holiday. The King of Ancadia wants them to restore the Ancadian Christmas Carousel and now they’re off to vague Europe. Ancadia is also the one with the “Casanova Prince.” Miss Thomas (why are we 5 minutes in and don’t know her name?) is wondering if she should apply for the job, because it’s a lot of work, and she still works with her dad. But her Sassy Friend is like, go do both, and have fun in Ancadia.
Which apparently you get to by Train, because they’ve just alighted off what looks like the Hogwarts Express and are met by an efficient assistant named Heidi, who is going to be the love interest for Dad, if I’m not mistaken. Ancadia looks like it’s in Switzerland. Prince Whitaker is going to oversee the project of carousel restoration, which has to be done in a short period of time because it is to be presented at the Christmas Eve Gala. It’s 2 weeks away. You would have thought that they would have figured out that this would have to be done a LOT earlier than 2 weeks. Apparently Prince Whitaker was also doing a lot of the work on the outside himself, which allows Miss Thomas and Prince to have a meet-cute where she almost pushes him off a ladder.
Quick question – if this carousel was such a big deal in Ancadia, why was it left to ruin?
She thinks he’s just an art restorer, and wonders about the Prince’s reputation of being a ladies’ man. Since this guy just kind of hit on her with his outrageously plummy accent, I would say that reputation has been well-earned. And we get my 2nd favorite royal trope – not telling people you’re royal! They get a royal cottage (already pre-decorated) before their audience with the royal family. We finally learn that her name is Lila Thomas. Dad’s name is Roy.
King Dad is not a fan of his son at this time, as he doesn’t think Prince Whitaker does a real job. There’s also some kind of grand-daughter named Mya (who are her parents?) who is exuberant and for whom the carousel is being restored (but shh, don’t tell her yet). King Dad also wants to retire (because THAT’s a thing in royal circles) but thinks that Whitaker is not ready for the job, but also as a single man in possession of a good fortune, he, of course, is in want of a wife.
As palaces go, this one is not as offensively decorated as other movies. King Dad’s name is Coventry? WHAT? Prince Whitaker shows up, late, and now Lila is all like, you lied to me at the carousel, but she says it with her eyes. But before we can get more back and forth with Prince and Lila, we’re interrupted by His Grace, Haddingford, Duke of Sterling, and his daughter, Lady Margaret, so move out of the way, commoners from America. Whitaker has been planning on an art school in Ancadia, and wants Sterling’s manor house for the school. Sterling is a military man, and doesn’t give a crap about art. Margaret is managing this whole manor donation thing, so of course they have to be thrown together, and of course, Margaret latches on to Whitaker like an octopus, and Lila is like, sure, whatever, but they head into a large banquet room in a hotel for tea. Apparently, Ancadia’s Christmas scones are great.
Roy Thomas is confessing to Heidi that he’s out of his league in a palace. Heidi is nice. Lady Margaret thinks of the art as a “wonderful diversion” and that goes against everything Lila stands for, and she tries to leave the tea party, but Whitaker follows to apologize for not being forthcoming, and then before they can talk for more than a minute, Margaret shows up to inquire who Lila is and look down on her for being a part time art teacher and part time antique carousel restorer. Whitaker loves teachers.
Whitaker shows up bright and early to help out at the carousel, and Lila gets him to admit that Margaret is not his girlfriend (does Margaret know that?) and that his smarmy pick up line at their meet-cute was weird. He was just being friendly, he says. I guess that means in Ancadia, a wolf-whistle is also just being friendly. Ugh. Lila is great about putting Whitaker in his place about hitting on her.
There was a commercial for Bigelow tea, and I’m very concerned about the lack of steepage that happens with these tea bags. It looks like the weakest tea ever! Sorry, I take tea very seriously.
Ancadia has a Christmas Carnival. Yay! Dad is asking Lila to stop teaching and work more on the family business because he and his comb-over want to retire. Lila also has not submitted her application for that big job. Ancadian breakfasts include herring, which provide a bonding moment for Whitaker and Lila. They also understand each other about art, and he takes her to go see horses to help her figure out carousel horses. Lila also apologizes for making assumptions about Whitaker’s Casanova ways, and he gets her to open up about her crisis of jobs. She doesn’t want to jeopardize her relationship with her Dad if she leaves his business to be a program director, and Whitaker sympathizes, because dads. Whitaker has an art history degree, and his dad has no idea what to do with that in a future king.
Lila is offering to help Whitaker get the manor house from military duke by exposing him to art in a meaningful way. Not sure what type of art will get that type of mindset be transformed, but hey, whatever, Hallmark, let’s see where this goes.
It’s a program called “The Art of Christmas” to give the Duke a taste of what Whitaker’s school will be like, and it has been planned during the commercial break, and Dad Roy is like, but what about us and the work on the carousel, and he pours his heart out to Heidi, who has arrived with coffee and a tree-lighting ceremony invitation. Heidi’s a widow, too!
Lila is very, very organized about this Art of Christmas and she and Whitaker are getting along very well. But she’s clearly not working in Excel based on her screen shots, so how is she getting anything done? But they’re late for the tree lighting. And we also have found out that Mya is Whitaker’s niece, and her parents are off skiing. And if this tree lighting is such a big deal, why are there no other people but Lila, her dad, and Heidi along with the royals? King Coventry also wants to make sure that Whitaker doesn’t have warm fuzzy feelings for Lila because ? (Are we foreshadowing The Sad Times?)
Oh, man, Mya’s solo at this Art of Christmas is “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Ugh.
How are their fingers not falling off restoring this carousel in the snow without gloves? You would think that the Ancadia people would have simply built a large shed around the carousel, right? Anyway, off Lila and Whitaker go to some kind of child art genius class – because seriously, where are these children learning oil painting like this? But Lila is all like, aww, he’s nice.
Roy and Heidi are strolling in the snow and loving it. Whitaker and Lila are also in this snow covered Christmas carnival, and are having a nice conversation about how Lila is awesome. She also sees a necklace that she likes, and so that’s going to come back in the end…maybe at the Gala? Lila still hasn’t applied for that job in her hometown, and Whitaker just confessed to Mya that he likes Lila. Whitaker gets home to the palace, met with angry disapproval by King Coventry. Art is detracting Whitaker from his work, and he should be doing more serious things, and Lady Margaret is suitable as a wife, and Whitaker is spending too much time with Lila. OMG, this is just like Philip and Charles in The Crown. Coventry orders Whitaker to take Margaret to the Gala, and then storms away, leaving Whitaker so mad his feelings are leaking out his eyes.
Remember what I said about the palace not being overly decorated? I take that back. Maybe they were just busy a few scenes ago.
Whitaker blows off a planned “hanging paintings date” with Lila because of his dad’s anger. And Heidi is there to tell Whitaker that his dad is full of crap. Take a chance on love, says Heidi. And back at the carousel, even Dad notices that Lila’s a little sad too, because of Whitaker.
Dad says she should just ask Whitaker how he feels about her and is it that simple? I guess it is, because she shows up at the palace that night and they have wine in front of a green screen. Whitaker says his dad is a pain in the ass, and apparently, the Gala is where royals get engaged, as a rule. And Whitaker has played the field because getting married means he’ll be king (AGAIN NOT HOW ROYALTY WORKS), and Dad wants him to be with Margaret, and Lila is still questioning everything in her very tight face (I’m sorry, she’s got a strong jaw). Whitaker says when he becomes king, he’ll have to give up everything that is dear to him (like art). He is struggling to tell Lila how he feels, and Lila stops him by saying that they’re “friends” and that makes Whitaker sad but he can’t express it because he’s emotionally stunted. This whole sequence is annoying because really, what is Lila doing saying that they’re just ‘friends’? This whole interview did NOT go well, and off Whitaker goes to ask Margaret to the Gala.
This Art of Christmas thing is in full swing, and Whitaker has to give a speech. Why is he so nervous about giving a speech? It seems like a big deal, but there are about 20 people in the room. And why is he reading the speech from cards? Jesus, why is he so bad at this? This makes NO sense. King Dad is disappointed, but Whit gets inspiration from Lila’s brown eyes, and now he goes off script, and now King Dad is SUPER disappointed. He gives a shout-out to Lila, and King Dad looks like he’s had to swallow a lobster. But I guess canapes and schoolchildren art on walls work their wonders, because King Dad manages to say good job at the end of the night, but he says it to Lila, not to Whitaker, and we get the heartbreaking news that King Dad super sucks and has never told Whitaker that he’s proud of him.
This whole thing was to get Duke Stuffypants to donate his manor house to the art school, and he’s not convinced yet. So Whitaker and Lila call Margaret to find out what Duke’s favorite Christmas carol is to be sung at the next night’s festivities. Margaret is annoyed that Lila is still there and cannot really help. They do all this on speakerphone. But after the commercial break, they end up back at the palace looking at hand-drawn books of Ancadia history (that are just lying around on a desk and not in archives.) They find the song, and ask Mya to sing it. And she doesn’t want to learn a new song in a day, because it took her two weeks to learn “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”
And the missing song is “Lully lullay” which, according to Lucy Worsley’s Twelve Days of a Tudor Christmas is not all that great of a song to sing at Christmas, because it commemorates the death of all the little children at the hands of King Herod back in Jesus time. But whatever, no one cares about history and anyway, this song only dates back in Ancadia to 1909. Oh, Lord give me strength to the end of this movie.
Whitaker tells Lila that she’s great at helping with Mya, and she says she thinks he’s great too. Everyone’s great. Lila doesn’t know that Whitaker asked Margaret to the Gala, so I’m guessing that great feeling is going to dissipate soon! Whitaker also gives Lila the necklace that she found in the market -it’s a tear-drop garnet, or something. It gets romantic and awkward when he puts it on her, because instead fastening it around her facing the back of her neck, he reaches around like he’s gonna strangle her. And then they say good-bye to each other, because, you know, “Friends.” Whitaker wants to cry.
But then he girds up his loins to confront his father to tell King Dad he likes Lila, and wait, what? King Dad says ok. And he apologizes! And says Lila makes Whitaker shine! Whitaker gets the king’s blessing and a very awkward hug. And King Dad is proud! Of Whitaker! But before Whitaker can go share his feelings with Lila, Margaret shows up at the carousel and drops the Gala bomb on poor, pom-pom wearing Lila. Because of course she does.
THE SAD TIMES! THE SAD TIMES! THE SAD TIMES! It’s time for Lila to clutch at her necklace and descend into THE SAD TIMES!
Lila manages to get back to the cottage and sit in a robe and cry before her dad comes back. She tells Dad she’s got an interview for the program director job, and she’s going to leave right after Mya sings. Ok, here’s the thing. It’s Christmas Eve. The next day is Christmas Day. There are no job interviews on Christmas Day. Why does she have to rush home other than the fact that she’s in the Sad Times? Dramatic Effect?
Dad’s not angry at Lila for leaving the family business. And Lila says that Whitaker is going to announce his engagement to Margaret at the Gala, and that’s why she’s leaving, because she doesn’t want to make it hard for Whitaker to do his duty and be king with a wife he doesn’t love. And Dad understands, I guess? Whatever, he loves his daughter. Yay.
Margaret shows up at the palace for a chat. Whitaker lets Margaret down easy, and what do you know, she’s not in love with him, either! So what was all that bitchery? Whatever, they’re relieved they don’t have to get married to each other.
Gala Time! Lila’s up in Mya’s room to help out with last-minute jitters, and I would like to point out that real children royalty don’t wear those cheap tiaras they sell in Claire’s. I’d also like to ask how Lila has so many dresses if she was only traveling to fix a carousel? Mya’s solo time, and it’s a capella. I’d also like to point out that Mya is not singing the King Herod version of this song, as I don’t believe they had candy canes in Jesus time, but it works its magic, because Duke Stuffypants joins in when she flounders the lyric. He even does it in harmony! Whitaker gets the manor house for his art school!
Lila left Mya to tell Whitaker that she’s leaving but Whitaker chases after her like Cinderella’s prince and it’s midnight. (Meaning he misses her). Margaret confesses that she told Lila about the Gala invite, and Whitaker keeps trying to call Lila, and Whitaker is beside himself until he gets an idea, which has something to do with the magic Christmas wishing horse on the finally refurbished carousel. Wish away, little starfish! He goes back to the Gala and LILA SHOWS UP! She’s his Christmas Wish!
And declarations of love and kisses in the Gala. Yay!
Seriously, though, he’s creepy. And of course, Whitaker offers Lila a comparable job at the new Ancadia Academy of Art, and Dad a job as the Royal Carousel Restorer, and so it seems like everyone is moving to Ancadia now?
Even Dad and Heidi get in on the action.
And the end.
Oh my goodness, what a wild ride! Did it live up to expectations? Yes. Did it make me yearn for my own vague Europe town to go to to cavort in the snow? Maybe. Did I enjoy this movie? It’s a toss up. Anyway, I got through it, just so you don’t have to.