For a lot of people an overly sentimental holiday themed romance has become a staple among their Christmas traditions and in true Netflix fashion they’re paying attention. There’s definitely a certain appeal that comes with watching two attractive singles that find themselves alone during the holiday season, who inevitably fall in love by the end of the movie. The Princess Switch is the streaming service’s most recent addition and it completely fits into this category.
Stacy DeNovo (Vanessa Hudgens) is recently single and successfully running her own bakery in Chicago with the help of her best friend, Kevin (Nick Sagar). Hoping to cheer her up during the holiday season, Kevin enters her name in The Royal Baking Contest and soon they are on their way to Belgravia. While preparing for the competition she bumps into the Prince’s fiancé, Duchess Margaret (Vanessa Hudgens) who notices their uncanny resemblance. Margaret quickly conducts a plan for the two of them can switch places for the next few days. Deep down she is a free spirit, obligated to marry a Prince she hardly knows, with dreams of living a normal life and Stacy is her last hope before marrying Prince Edward (Sam Palladio). Trying to be more spontaneous for once in her life, Stacy agrees to her unusual plan. The following days are spent moving throughout the quaint streets of the fictitious country of Belgravia as Stacy and Margaret are swept up their own picture perfect holiday love stories.
Movies like this one tell us that Christmastime is the most magical time to fall in love. They focus on a couple worthy of rooting for or in this case two and we watch as they fall in love while doing idealistic Christmas things like baking together, snow ball fights, horse drawn carriage rides, caroling and visiting Santa Claus. This is a proven method for the dream-like romance that will easily engage your audience. Stacy and Prince Edward’s romance was less interesting because it’s the same Cinderella-like story. The romance between Margaret and Kevin was where I wish they had spent more time. Kevin and Stacy have been friends since high school, the thought of being in a relationship has never crossed their minds until she (who is actually Margaret) starts showing a more easy going and care free side of her personality. Their love stories were highly predictable but again it’s not really about the particulars.
It’s hard to compare this to other films that have come out this year. What I don’t want to do is to tell you how it compares alongside others that are critically acclaimed because that is not fair. I will say that this is a film that all ages can watch during this time of the year, which makes it a great companion while you wrap Christmas presents or decorate your tree. The thing that makes Christmas movies the most fun for a lot of people is that they know they can have a good time without getting too involved. The Princess Switch is perfect for that. There’s an easy plot with a generic set up that’s familiar, a decently charming lead, and a happy ending. But I have to say this was tough to sit through. The plot was completely unoriginal, I’ve seen these exact scenarios before in The Prince and Me and The Parent Trap and they were handled much better. They even copied a scene practically shot for shot from The Princess Diaries; again the original was captured much better. The unoriginal plot is also ridiculous; the writers try to explain why these two women look exactly alike with some story about a relative who had a similar last name to Stacy’s. So they aren’t even long lost twins, which could make some sort of sense. Instead they’re only possibly related and yet those closest to them fail to notice that they are impersonating each other over the course of a few days. They also involved characters that had little to do with the overall story and were actually without any real purpose like a mean girl who tries to sabotage Stacy in the baking contest, or the mysterious man who keeps reappearing, or the villainous Royal driver. Another problem that made this difficult to watch was the cast. The only recognizable actor is Vanessa Hudgens. Ever since she played the sweet girlfriend in the High School Musical films, Hudgens has been an actress that I enjoy watching. She’s not doing anything interesting but she has a charm about her. However that charm is not enough to get past a bad performance. This also has to do with my interest in Margaret and Kevin’s relationship compared to Stacy and Prince Edward’s. I’d much rather watch her play Stacy because her as Margaret was rather brutal. She didn’t come across as a Royal Duchess, merely someone trying to act like her own projections of a Royal.
The Princess Switch has some screenplay issues; there are some plot holes and confusing characters that could be ignored because that’s not the overall goal. But that’s really hard to do since it’s just a bad movie. If your intention is to have a good time then you will have an easier time doing that if you know what you’re signing up for. I tried my best to sit back and just enjoy it for what it was but I couldn’t do it, the issues were too big for me to ignore.
1 1/2 out of 5 stars
Director: Mike Rohl Writers: Robin Bernheim, Megan Metzger Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, Nick Sagar Release Date: November 16th Rated: Not rated Runtime: 1 hour and 41 minutes