By Jen P
Why do I love The Princess Switch? Because love stories, however ridiculous, warm my heart. I’m a shallow, shallow woman, and as long as the acting is decent and I’m personally attracted to the cast, I’m all in. But what truly makes The Princess Switch stand out among the other candy cane and hot cocoa romances, is that in this tale, you get two love stories for the price of one!
The Princess Switch opens on Christmas in Chicago (Not really. The whole movie was filmed in Romania.) Picture a busy city street, decked for the holidays. The camera pans down to a quaint little bakery or pastry shop—can’t remember which—that Stacy (Vanessa Hudgens, Beastly, High School Musical) owns. She’s a successful baker, with a Sous Chef/ Best friend named Kevin (Nick Sagar, Shadowhunters). Kevin and Stacy have never felt anything romantic towards each other, despite his daughter’s best efforts to fix them up. As a friend, though, he has her best interest at heart, and signs her up for a royal baking competition in the fictional town of Belgravia. She doesn’t want to go, but upon making a wish to not be alone this holiday season, she runs into her ex and his new girlfriend. A mysterious, possibly magical, old man insinuates that her wish may just come true.
So, she’s off to Belgravia, where an old rival immediately stirs trouble at the competition, spilling coffee all over her apron in She’s All That style. Stacy goes backstage to get cleaned up, and runs into her doppelganger, the Duchess Margaret of someplace or other (also Vanessa Hudgens) who may possibly be her distant cousin through a scandalous affair in the States a few generations back. The soon-to-be-princess asks Stacy to meet her later for a cake consultation, which Stacy of course agrees to.
Turns out, the Duchess doesn’t care about cake but wants to swap places with Stacy so that she can live a normal life for a few days before the New Year’s wedding. With the Duchess’s promise that Stacy won’t have to interact with anyone, Stacy agrees. (The Prince Edward (Sam Palladio, Nashville, Humans) will be away on affairs of the state or something.) Of course, the Prince decides to stay to better get to know his bride-to-be, and we all know what happens next.
(NOPE. Not that. This is Hallmark level, so the most action we’ll get is a kiss.)
Now, let’s get the ugly stuff out of the way, shall we? None of these cons should come as a surprise since they’re expected in this style of holiday, made-for-tv fare, but here we go.
The Rip Off:
It’s The Parent Trap meets The Princess Diaries meets The Prince and the Pauper.
- Just like in The Parent Trap, Vanessa Hudgens plays both roles by way of modern split-screen technology and probably some other technical stuff I don’t care about. This split screen looks way better than they used to, though, so kudos to modern innovation.
- Like in The Princess Diaries, the lead visits and bonds with underprivileged children in an adorable little country that no one has heard of. (No offense, Anne Hathaway, but I can’t say which of you did it better.)
- And of course, with the trading places of a baker and a duchess, the biggest rip off here is of The Prince and the Pauper, or maybe even The City Mouse and the Country Mouse. The Trading Places, fish out of water story has been done and done and done again, yet… here I am, watching this version like the simple-minded fool that I am.
Cheesiness and Suspension of Disbelief:
We’ve got a magical Christmas village. There’s a handsome prince. There’s an elf-like (or potentially angelic, it’s never explained) older gentleman guiding the characters along the way. Christmas is everywhere, from the picturesque horseback rides through the snow to the gingerbread cookies on the plates. And all of that sugar is nothing compared to the cheese going on in the story.
- The mini-villain is a massive over-actor, so everything she does is cheesy (see “Acting” below).
- Ridiculous dialogue and plot holes abound. (This exchange, in particular, does both: When Stacy asks the magical elf guy if he was the same guy she talked to in Chicago a few days ago, he replies, “How could I have been in Chicago last weekend?” She accepts this answer, when he could have as easily hopped a plane as she did.)
- And, I don’t hate insta-love, but all four characters fall in love with each other in less than three days. I especially don’t believe the Duchess/Kevin romance was at full “love” level, though the Prince and Baker romance at least had the arranged marriage linking them romantically beforehand.
- And, **SPOILERS** There’s a proposal on live television—which is completely out of character and would probably cause more trouble than its worth for said character if this were real life.
In all of these romantic Christmas films, no matter how ridiculous the situation, love conquers all. There will be no broken hearts (at least not for the good guys), the content won’t ever get too political or heavy. And if there’s a death, it’ll happen early in the film or in the past of one of the characters so you won’t cry about it. The whole point of these films is the journey to that happy ending. And then you can cry. But only tears of joy. (Just so you know, I shed zero tears watching this film, and that’s saying something because I cry in commercials these days. Christmas with Holly on Hallmark was a precious tear-jerker if you want to check it out. My husband won’t admit it, but we were both sobbing at the end of that one. If you’re a parent, it especially hits you right in the feels. Bonus: the lead looks like a young Tom Cruise.)
It ain’t great, but isn’t as bad as some I’ve seen. Vanessa Hudgens changes the accent for each character, and intentionally struggles with it when one is playing the other. She’s actually not bad at this. The least believable bits on Vanessa Hudgens’s part, are when the Duchess is pretending to be the baker girl, and her comfort around Kevin is a bit too natural. Though, that could be argued that she was comfortable because she was falling in love with him.
Now, some of the supporting actors… yikes. There’s an obnoxious fake fainting spell at one point. Also, the king’s sneaky little spy is constantly overacting, which becomes a theme among the supporting cast. Especially the mildly villainous Brianna, who holds the baking title from last year. When she’s bad, she’s massively overacting her mean-girl bitch face (she pulls the classic “accidental” spill to ruin Stacy’s apron); then suddenly, at the happy ending, she’s clapping and smiling for her rival.
Nonsense. Pure nonsense. But, that’s more the writer’s fault than the actress’s, I suppose.
And now, for the whipped cream on top of the cocoa: (Marshmallows are gross.)
As I said above, the acting has its issues, but it’s better than most films in this category. That puts The Princess Switch ahead of the curve. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously. As long as you don’t either, you’ll enjoy it. (Merely watching the preview for A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding makes me want to hurl my fruitcake. My iZombie girl is not at her best in that one.)
The Princess Switch cast people of all colors, races, sexes and ages as good, bad, and every kind of character in-between. (If there were a few gay or trans characters, I’d say this film had truly outdone the competition; but sadly, we’re not there yet.) Hudgens herself is of Chinese-Filipino-Irish-Native American decent, while Kevin and his daughter are African American, Prince Edward is white, an elderly man plays a key role as the elf-guide, a child (Kevin’s Daughter) gives helpful advice from the real world, and women pretty much dominate the rest of the film as leaders, aides, and enemies.
Who run the world?
There was another ethnically diverse offering this year on Netflix—The Holiday Calendar. It was the first Christmas movie I watched this season, but unfortunately, it was also one of the most forgettable. It started with a great premise but didn’t keep me interested. Put simply, it was boring. That isn’t the case for The Princess Switch. From start to end, I found my eyes glued to the screen. Maybe it was all the colorful sugar, or maybe it was just better writing, but at no point did I question my decision to press play. Quite often this season, that has not been the case. (Please die, Once Upon a Christmas, and never come back. You’re a bad The Santa Clause rip-off, and I’ll never get that hour and a half back)
And finally, the most important gauge for any saccharine holiday flick, is the Smile Factor:
Did I roll my eyes a few times? Yes. Did I cringe in parts? You better believe it. But did my cheeks hurt by the time the credits rolled? Indeed, they did. This alone makes me give The Princess Switch three solid shields.
And now that I’ve watched the best of the season, I’m out, geeks. I need a palate cleanser after all this sugar. Time to watch Die Hard… or maybe Gremlins.
Have you seen any of this years holiday offerings? What were your favorites, and what were the worst? Light up the comments below.
Merry Christmas, Geeks!