'Red, White & Royal Blue' review: Queer romantic comedy doesn’t have the spark
Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video
Another welcome dose of queer representation can’t salvage misguided chemistry in “Red, White & Royal Blue,” the adaptation of the 2019 bestseller by Casey McQusiton that sparked a multi-studio bidding war before landing at Prime Video. A cheeky R-rated romantic comedy trying to prove the genre can yield a hit if the mood is right, “Red, White & Royal Blue'' unfortunately has two leads, played by Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine, who never mesh in a realistic manner nor keep you engaged with the story, wherein the president of the United States’ son has a closted love affair with the grandson of the ruling British monarch.
Which is shocking coming from theater royalty, Matthew López, making his feature debut, a Tony nominee who's Broadway darling “The Inheritance” captured an authentic queer experience through the lens of the AIDS epidemic. In “Red, White & Royal Blue,” everything from innuendos, double entendres, and the laughable green screen effects that awkwardly stand-in for Buckingham Palace and the White House, is artificial. Considering it hails from producer Greg Berlanti, the man responsible for several major CW series,’ maybe it’s not that shocking “Red, White & Royal Blue” feels like it belongs on the Hallmark channel.
Trying to showcase culture shattering events through the gaze of two unlikely lover boys, the movie follows Alex Clarmount-Diaz (Perez) and Prince Henry (Galitzine) who are both stereotypical and emblematic of their nations respective cultures. They are burdened with maintaining pristine social images and avoiding unwanted attention or controversies. The two also, at least in the beginning, can’t stand each other and despise their families for always pairing them alongside one another at highly publicized gatherings.
But as any romantic comedy goes, the petty bickering eventually starts festering towards something deeply intimate and before you can say tea and crumpets, the two are jumping in the sheets. It’s affectionate and charming at first, but when the two are eventually forced to confront the reality of their situation, we’re forced to adhere to cheesy dialogue and ham-fisted diplomatic solutions that would be a challenge for any actor to deliver. In the quieter moments, Perez and Galitzine manage to find gestures that speak louder than words ever could, though when the movie starts amping up the plot, we’re left with a major chemistry deficiency. Sure, they look good together, but we’re missing that spark.
Amid all of this, the movie stays busy with secondary plots, like Alex, at the behest of his mother (Uma Thurman sporting a thick southern drawl), leading a coalition of young voters in their home turf of Texas to try and flip the state in the upcoming election. An election we’re told is razor tight though we never sense its urgency, which means it ends up becoming a cheap plot device meant to invoke tension. It ends up backfiring and squandering what little momentum the central romance had provided.
Recent queer rom coms, “Bros,” “Love, Simon,” and “Happiest Season” showcased how valuable representation is, but they were also thoughtful, equipped with believable characters and had consistent laughs. “Red, White & Royal Blue” would like to think it has all those elements, except it’s in a tug-of-war with itself and never finds the right tone. In trying to play both sides of the aisle and being afraid of offending audiences, you’re struck with a predictable romance and two leads who can’t seem to find purpose in what they’re doing.
RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE is now streaming on Prime Video.