Casey McQuiston’s best-selling novel, Red, White, & Royal Blue, has been adapted into a mostly cute rom-com about a pair of star-crossed lovers—the First Son of the United States and England’s “spare” prince. 


Taylor Zakhar Perez (Minx’s happy himbo centerfold) stars as Alex, son of what is, I guess, America’s first Madame President, played by Uma Thurman with a terrible “Texan” accent (she sounds like Scarlett O’Hara). Nicholas Galitzine, here a million times more charming than he was in the execrable Purple Hearts, plays Prince Henry, the “Prince of People’s Hearts”, a popular and beloved royal son of England. Royal, adapted for the screen by Matthew López, who also directs, and Ted Malawer, mixes cultural references to suggest a royal family loosely inspired by the Windsors but just left-of-reality enough not to break the suspension of disbelief required for the film.

Perez and Galitzine make for an appealing romantic pair, it is as easy to believe their early-days dislike of one another as it is to buy into their mutual interest and eventual love. Perez, with his ludicrous eyelashes DARING us to question their validity in EVERY scene, is particularly good as Alex, an ambitious young man who is a combination of first-generation American and elite politician’s progeny. Royal touches on Alex’s somewhat uneasy sense of self; he has dragged the son-of-a-working-class-immigrant chip on his shoulder into the White House, where his blonde mother reigns supreme. But the film quickly drops that thread in favor of focusing on the romance, which is a little bit too bad because the best early tension between Alex and Henry derives from Alex’s disdain for the trappings of royalty and Henry’s own hesitancy to embrace Alex because, well, he has a crush.


Royal is perfectly enjoyable, with a feel-good message about love and acceptance, and Perez and Galitzine are well-matched as a screen couple. Beyond a little bit of chintziness owing to obvious green screen elements involving the White House, Royal is perfectly fine as a film. But there is enough interesting stuff playing in the margins that I longed for a little bit more than a merely entertaining rom-com. 

For instance, Sarah Shahi steals every scene she is in as White House aide, Zahra—Royal could have used more of her. She grounds the film in its political reality, wherein Alex’s relationship jeopardizes his mother’s reelection campaign. Similarly, Clifton Collins, Jr. provides a paternal warmth that is a necessary counterbalance to Henry’s absolutely miserable family.


I also could have used more of Henry’s detestable family, too. Ellie Bamber is cute but inconsequential as his supportive sister, Beatrice, but Thomas Flynn has absolutely wasted comedic villain potential as Henry’s obnoxious older brother, the heir apparent Philip. The film sketches these characters but none of them ever have a chance to make much of an impression, yet the weight of What Our Relationship Means To Our Families hangs over the back half of the film. A little bit more given to the families to present as actual people and not mere outlines would balance the story better between the effervescence of falling in love and the crushing expectations weighing on both men.

There’s a thornier, deeper film here, something that hews closer to the Pretty Woman outline of using rom-com trappings to tell a truly complex love story that doesn’t shy away from the realities the lovers must face. Royal dips into What It All Means for Alex and Henry when their relationship is exposed, but it’s rushed, relegated to the final half-hour of the film. Royal instead goes all-in on the feel-good vibes, which isn’t bad, necessarily, it just wastes the potential of an interesting premise and a pair of actors up to the task of inhabiting a more complex story. It also shortchanges what could have been a good ensemble for all we know, the supporting characters barely get to do anything. 


But the film is what it is, and as is, Royal is fine. Not particularly memorable outside of the genuinely charming performances of Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine, but fine. As a queer love story, it touches on the right of queer people to come out when and how they choose, but as with so much of the story, the coming out plot is truncated to fit into that last half-hour. The last few minutes of this film are doing so much work! There’s an imbalance in the story structure that plagues the whole film, undercutting the most interesting pieces of the narrative and the characters so that Royal can maintain its bubbly rom-com tone. If all you want is bubbles, great, you found them. Red, White & Royal Blue delivers on vibes and romance but it’s as shallow as a glass of champagne at a (royal) wedding.

This review was published during the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes of 2023. The work being reviewed would not exist without the labor of writers and actors. Red, White, & Royal Blue is now streaming on Prime.