A Castle For Christmas falls in the “it’s so bad it’s almost good” genre. In what other Christmas film will you get cows, sheep, horses, sweaters, kilts, snowball fights, dancing, whiskey, and castles. A Castle For Christmas hits every Christmas cliche and adds a few Scottish ones as well. Brooke Shields, so badly miscast here, has been so far under the radar that I’m not sure she still qualifies as a B-list actress. Likewise, name me one film you remember seeing Cary Elwes since The Princess Bride (1987). Yet, both have enough name recognition to headline a mismatched pair certain to fall in love despite themselves.
The star of A Castle For Christmas is really the castle except it isn’t. Castle Dun Dunbar is fictional, probably named after Castle Dunbar, one of the strongest fortresses in Scotland. Alas, it is in ruins, not open to the public. Our castle is actually the Dalmeny House seen below, still pretty fantastic. Star number two is the dog, Hamish. He’s owned by the Duke, but is “stolen” by Sophie. Additionally, star number three are Thomas and “The Knitters.” You don’t want to mess with them when it comes to conspiracies and matters of the heart. The Duke and Sophie get off to a rough start, then its lights and laughter for Dunbar, population 153. I give A Castle For Christmas 3.0 Gavels and it receives a 71% Rotten Tomatoes rating (only seven reviews) and a 5.6/10 IMDb score.
Through twenty years and 12 novels, Sophie Brown keeps her readers happy with the love stories of Emma Gale and her perfect boyfriend, Winston. Then, perhaps mirroring her own personal life plunging downward in divorce, Sophie kills off Winston. Her fans revolt. To give them a chance to cool down, Sophie heads of to see the Castle Dun Dunbar where her father lived as a child. She finds her dream just as she imagined, but owned by Myles Dunbar, a man who really doesn’t like strangers. But, he needs the money so he tolerates the tours and gift shop. Still, it is not enough. He must sell. Maybe he can trick this New York author out of her escrow money to stave off foreclosure. Surely, the Duke can chase her off before Christmas.
Notably, one of Cary Elwes‘ ancestors is the inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge written by Charles Dickens. As the twelfth Duke of Dun Dunbar, Myles is the opposite of miserly, but just as grumpy. While not of historical royalty, Brooke Sheilds is said to be related to the noble families of Italy. Hint, it is of no value in Scotland as Sophie. Of greater importance to the viewer is her deserved three Golden Raspberry wins.
Myles Dunbar claims there are some 3000 castles in Scotland dating back to the 14th Century. Since Castle Dun Dunbar is a fake, is he to be believed? As Sophie and Myles spar throwing insults back and forth, she posits “that dukes are supposed to be gentlemen.” Myles responds “those are the English dukes.” Notwithstanding all the nonsense, the snow and decorated “castle” provide a gorgeous Scottish Christmas setting. And, you get an education on such derogatory Scottish terms as eejit, diddy, numpty, dobber and walloper.
“The expansive Scottish landscape and melancholy pacing of this festive tour through the highlands confirms A Castle For Christmas has its charms.” Tell-Tale TV
“As non-descript and flat-looking as every other [holiday] Netflix has produced in the past few years … passion is what is sorely missing from this rote and toothless romance.” In Review Online
Admittedly, the Shields-Elwes kiss ranks among the worst kisses ever seen on-screen. Overall, it’s still heads and shoulders above My Dad’s Christmas Date. So, there’s that.