As Lifetime movies go, “Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance” isn’t as deliciously awful as one might have hoped, but it’s silly and bloated enough to be entertainingly bad. Give some credit to the movie’s stars, Murray Fraser and Parisa Fitz-Henley, who bring great conviction to a story that seemingly comes to a logical conclusion three different times, but manages to keep plodding along beyond the customary 85 minutes sans commercials.
Lifetime has gotten a bit of a jump on a week’s worth of Royal Wedding coverage, and the dramatic format – unconvincing in places, given the intimate nature of the scenes – allows the producers to humanize the prince and the actress, while largely casting an intrusive press as the villains in the story.
This by-now-obligatory dramatization of any Royal coupling opens with a flashback to Harry as a young boy, and an excursion to Africa after his mother’s funeral, where he’s dramatically confronted by a lion. Meghan is also shown as a young girl, already outspoken and independent, pushing back against being forced into a box because of her biracial heritage.
Closer to the present, the two are fixed up on a blind date, with her asking, “Is he nice?,” and Harry playing into his bad-boy image by asking, “Is she hot?”
It doesn’t take long before the two are jetting off to Botswana, bonding as they feed giraffes together and falling in love, in that order. Yet what should have been the “Happily ever after” part of the fairy tale – cue the music, roll credits – gives way to questions about Harry marrying a divorced American commoner, with sister-in-law Kate (Laura Mitchell) wryly observing that Meghan’s resume “makes Wallis Simpson look like Dame Judi Dench.”
Most of the family, it’s worth noting, is depicted as being supportive of the relationship because the two are obviously gaga about each other, although brother Prince William (Burgess Abernethy) can’t resist “having a bit of a giggle” seeing Harry so smitten.
Still, this is a drama, after all, so “Harry & Meghan” finds conflict in casually nasty and racist remarks from those in the Royal orbit (one questions the time remaining on Meghan’s biological clock) and the relentless hounding by the paparazzi. When Harry makes a public statement pleading with the press to leave Meghan alone, she vents at him, insisting, “I am not some damsel in distress.”
That’s followed by the inevitable reunion, but again, this gauzy valentine doesn’t end there, saving what might be its one truly riotous bit for last, as Harry takes Meghan to meet his “granny,” a.k.a. Queen Elizabeth II. Her first question involves being reassured that the actress isn’t in any way involved with the unauthorized Netflix series about her life, “The Crown.”
Lifetime, naturally, will repeat “Harry & Meghan” later in the week, paired with a rebroadcast of “William & Kate,” its 2011 movie about how that relationship began, which underscores the formulaic nature of the exercise. In this case, just add a few additional degrees of difficulty. And giraffes.
“Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance” premieres May 13 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.