'William & Catherine': It's slick schlock

Prince William greets Kate Middleton as she arrives

Prince William greets Kate Middleton as she arrives at the alter with her father Michael Middleton, prior to their marriage in London's Westminster Abbey. (April 29, 2011) (Credit: AP)

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TV MOVIE "William & Catherine: A Royal Romance"

WHEN | WHERE Saturday at 9 p.m. on Hallmark Channel

REASON TO WATCH The royal family is human!

WHAT IT'S ABOUT As if you didn't know the entire tale. But, hey, maybe you don't, at least as it concerns this movie's scope. There's no royal wedding. This is the prequel for Britain's Prince William and his commoner queen-to-be Catherine -- the "how they met" and "how they weathered the storm" and "how he finally proposed." It's a veritable chocolate sundae for ravenous romantics.

Ten years back, they crash into each other at university. Will's got that problem of juggling his schoolwork and social life, plus other things like bodyguards and groundbreakings. Kate's got the hots for him, but becomes "best friend" and works her way up.

She even passes the parents-and-grandparents test. But Will gets cold feet. A paparazzi chase festers fears from Mommy's death. Then, he gets good counsel from Daddy Charles and even Mommy Diana, thanks to a last-interview videotape he just happens to stumble across. And then . . . well, you know.

MY SAY A quick summary makes it sound schlocky, but "William & Catherine" is pretty slick schlock. Yes, it hews too closely to TV-movie formula. But at least its meet-cute is well-staged, its having-fun montages of swan feeding are brief, and few lines are this wince-worthy: "For a blue blood, you've got quite the green thumb."

Those obvious moments are played well enough that they're not deal-breakers. When "W&C" takes its time -- letting characters absorb and react -- its strong cast breathes life into their icons. Not only are American actor Dan Amboyer and Britain's Alice St. Clair (in her first professional role) adorably grounded as the young lovers, but the supporting old pros sharply render their royals. Victor Garber doesn't look like Prince Charles, but he nails the voice, as does Lesley Harcourt as Diana (despite that scary hair helmet). Jean Smart makes a comfy Camilla, and Jane Alexander makes you believe a queen who plays Wii tennis.

BOTTOM LINE Just like us, except rich and pampered and living in palaces.

GRADE B

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