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‘The Royal Treatment’ far from a crowning achievement

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I’ve had my share of fun at the expense of Netflix’s original movie offerings over the years. Sure, they’ve developed some truly excellent films – hell, they might even have this year’s Best Picture winner thanks to “The Power of the Dog” – but they’ve never shied away from stressing quantity over quality with regard to the majority of their films.

And so it was with some trepidation that I sat down to watch “The Royal Treatment,” currently streaming on the service.

Directed by Rick Jacobson from a script by Holly Hester, the film tells the story of a hairdresser from Queens who, through various and sundry circumstances, winds up traveling to a foreign country to work at a prince’s wedding. Fish out of water hijinks ensue, even as a number of people learn lessons about each other … and about themselves.

This premise might feel familiar because you’ve seen literally dozens of movies that follow the exact same template. And honestly, you’re probably better off just rewatching one of those instead, because folks, this movie is not very good.

From the listless performances to the obvious corner-cutting, “The Royal Treatment” is a tossed-off trifle of a movie, not even bad enough to entertain. It is emblematic of one of the biggest downsides to the Netflix machine – good, bad or indifferent, all that really matters is that the movie exists. And it does have that going for it – “The Royal Treatment” does indeed exist.

Izzy (Laura Morano) runs a hair salon in Queens, one packed with the sort of stereotypical folks you’d expect to find in such a place. There’s her mom Valentina (Amanda Billing) and her Nonna (Elizabeth Hawthorne), as well as her two sassy friends/employees Lola (Grace Bentley-Tsibuah) and Destiny (Chelsie Preston Crayford). There are money troubles, because of course there are.

Meanwhile, the prince of the small European country of Lavania is in town. Prince Thomas (Mena Massoud) is displeased with the way he’s appeared in various tabloid photos, so he has his manservant Walter (Cameron Rhodes) make arrangements for a haircut. Walter mishears a recommendation and winds up calling Izzy’s salon and hiring her to come cut the prince’s hair.

Izzy’s no-nonsense sass intrigues the young prince; he’s in the midst of planning his wedding to Texas real estate heiress Lauren LaMott (Phoenix Connelly), so when circumstances require someone to handle the hair and makeup for the wedding, he hires Izzy and her friends to come to Lavania and do the job.

Izzy’s fresh attitude brings new perspective to Thomas and his royal life, opening his eyes to the world in which he lives. She immediately befriends everyone at the castle (well, “castle” – it looks more like a house in the Hamptons than a castle) and generally shakes things up. Everyone from the gardeners to the gate guards to Walter himself is captivated by her brash boldness.

From there, well … like I said, you’ve seen this movie before.

I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a movie as utterly devoid of surprises as this one. “The Royal Treatment” is what you get if you extract the baseline formula from a bunch of formulaic movies, then dumb it down. Every plot point is telegraphed, every choice is obvious, every moment is both predictable and forgettable – even as none of it makes a lick of sense with the least modicum of examination. I’ve made the joke about these movies being written by algorithm many times before, but if you were to tell me that “Holly Hester” is just a nom de plume for Netflix’s proprietary screenwriting AI, well … then I guess there would be ONE surprise associated with this film.

Production-wise, well … it’s pretty Netflix-y. I already mentioned the ostensible castle that looks like a personal injury lawyer’s second vacation home. The foreign land of Lavania appears to be roughly the same size as a city neighborhood and is rendered with a ham-fistedness that would be hilarious if it was intentional; seriously, the rough part of Lavania is literally on the other side of the tracks. You can’t make this up. Basically, they just took a bunch of extras, gave them bright colored clothing and said “Good enough.”

The performances are about what you’d expect. Morano’s character development seems to be based entirely on her staggeringly over-the-top accent; she has somehow managed to give a stereotypical performance built on a stereotype, a Queens-ception that needs to be heard to be believed. Everyone in her cohort is also afflicted with said accent, though none of them plumbs the depths the way Morano does. Massoud is a charming enough guy, but he’s got absolutely zero to work with here. He basically blinks confusedly through the first two-thirds of the movie, then switches to blinking meaningfully for the home stretch. Everyone in this film is a cartoon. Just not the good kind.

(Now, I will concede that I found the brief moments of joy where I could. For instance, since Massoud played Aladdin in the recent live-action remake, you better believe I belted out “A Whole New World” in an accent that attempted to match the egregiousness of those in the film. Think Princess Jasmine voiced by Mel Blanc and you’re close. Hey – I certainly wasn’t enjoying the movie, so I made my own fun.)

Like I said, you’ve almost certainly already seen this movie. It might not have had the same title or stars, but it was the same film, except almost certainly better. “The Royal Treatment” is the kind of movie that makes one long for the good old days of European monarchy.

You know – regicide.

[1 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 24 January 2022 11:15

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