It was terrible and awful and I loved every second of it.
It’s officially December! Which means it’s officially acceptable to binge-watch holiday movies for the entire month, and boy, are we starting off with a doozy. First things first, I have to give a shoutout to my friend Prescylla for requesting that I review what she lovingly referred to as, “the Vanessa Hudgens fake Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003).” Using my keen perceptive mind, I deduced that she could only be talking about the Netflix original movie, The Princess Switch (2018). Side note, Prescylla and our friend Mel run Verondré, an amazing fashion, lifestyle, and beauty blog. Full of helpful and entertaining articles, reviews, and vlogs, you can check out their incredible content here.
The Princess Switch is the classic tale of “The Prince and the Pauper,” set in the modern day. Vanessa Hudgens plays both Stacy DeNovo, an ordinary baker from Chicago, and Duchess Margaret Delacourt of Montenaro, who after realizing they look identical, decide to swap places. Margaret, who is about to marry Prince Edward of Belgravia (I can’t), wants to connect more with her future subjects. Stacy, who is in Belgravia (I literally can’t) for an international baking competition, agrees to the swap so she can do something spontaneous for once. You guys, this movie was terrible. Terrible, but also amazing, and you should definitely watch it. Watch it for the questionable acting choices alone. Case in point, in a movie filled with vaguely European characters, Sam Palladio as Prince Edward is the only one whose accent is authentic. Believe me, we will get to Vanessa Hudgens’ accent in a minute. There’s so much more we have to talk about first.
First of all, this movie is marketed as silly Christmas nonsense, and yet inexplicably has a 100 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not that Rotten Tomatoes should be the sole way we judge movies – the fact that Mamma Mia! (2008) stands at 55 per cent is a crime against humanity – but still…the intrigue. Also, I’m always here for a “swapping places” type of movie. The Parent Trap (1998) is legit. The clichés in a “swapping places” movie are just as cheesy and plentiful as the ones in a Christmas movie or a romantic comedy, and guess what? This movie is ALL THREE of those and unashamedly uses ALL OF THE CLICHÉS. Speaking of, while neither of her characters are particularly original, or hardly even characters for that matter, its Hudgens’ role as Stacy that comes across as a walking stereotype. If you’ve ever seen a rom-com or Christmas movie, than you know that the only acceptable character traits for the female protagonist are that she is kind, down-to-earth, and unlucky in love. As soon as we meet Stacy, we’re hit over the head with just how much she fits that description: She runs a bakery, consistently smiles, loves children, is hung-up on her ex-boyfriend Paul, and always has her hair in a cute ponytail tucked into a generic baseball cap. Do you think that Vanessa asked the director, “so what’s Stacy’s character like?” and the director just said, “oh…she’s sweet.” I’m going with yes because “sweet” is what Hudgens delivered and boy did she do so in spades. Oh my God, is that why her character runs a bakery? Because she’s so sweet? I am the Nancy Drew of Netflix holiday movies…
As Margaret, Hudgens is given equally little to work with. If Stacy’s only character trait is “sweet,” than Margret’s is “fancy.” Also, wow, I know there had to be SOME distinction between Margaret and Stacy, but the former’s English accent is….a choice. A horrendous one that is grating to listen to. I have a feeling that Vanessa Hudgens knew this movie was nonsense, but did it anyway because hey, it was probably fun to make, and she’s a workhorse. She’ll take any role. Though none of her projects since the High School Musical trilogy (2006 – 2008) have been standouts – except for her performance in Grease: Live (2016) in which she snatched several wigs – you can always count on Hudgens to show up, act charmingly plain, and earn that paycheque. By the way, am I the only one who thinks she hasn’t aged at all since the High School Musical days? She looks flawless.
One of the major problems with The Princess Switch is the dialogue. Cringe-inducing, unrealistic, and filled with exposition as heavy as an anvil, it feels like the script was written by a sixth-grade drama class. That being said, there was one amazing line that made me scream. When Stacy is confronted by her baking rival Brianna, she comments that Brianna was very close to the faculty and even “sauced Prof. Kendall’s berries.” I simultaneously get what they’re talking about and have no idea what the fuck that’s supposed to mean. Either way I howled with delight and whispered to myself, “this movie is awesome.” Okay, so there are clichés, like the fact that in all of these movies the two look-alikes never mention how freaky it is that they have the same fucking face, and then there’s just straight up stealing from other movies. How about when Stacy and Olivia, the daughter of her sous-chef Kevin, do an overly-complicated handshake that Margaret has to learn à la The Parent Trap? Or when Stacy and Price Edward are dancing in a romanticly-lit, abandoned gazebo? Highly reminiscent of another princess-themed movie…cough, A Cinderella Story (2004), cough. Did director Mike Rohl subconsciously want to cast Hilary Duff? I would have been here for that.
Stacy and Margaret’s love interests, Prince Edward and Kevin respectively, are basically in the movie to look handsome and speak in even more clichés. When Stacy, masquerading as Margaret, suggests to Edward that they visit the town’s orphanage and connect with the children, of course he’s all like, “why, that’s never been done! You’re shaking things up and getting me to let loose and I think I’m falling in love with you!” Okay, he might not use those exact words, but like, that’s what’s happening. Oh yeah, and you can bet your bottom dollar that not only do they visit the orphans, but the kids are too poor for Christmas presents so Stacy and Edward buy them a shit ton of presents and then they all sing a Christmas carol! SINGING ORPHANS! Is this movie real? Seriously, I really thought I had accidentally switched to a commercial because in the most clever use of subliminal advertising I’ve ever seen, Margaret and Kevin get cozy on the couch and watch A CHRISTMAS PRINCE (2017) ON NETFLIX! This movie GETS IT.
While The Princess Switch is in no shortage of silly genre clichés (there’s a magical old man who appears to each main character and helps them in vague and mysterious ways), it sorely lacks genuine charisma. In trying to be sweet and precocious, the movie comes off as unoriginal and nauseating. There’s a scene where all four main characters are in the same toy store and the tension builds as it looks like they’ll run into each other and get into some hijinks and then…the magic old man just calls Stacy and Edward away without Margaret and Kevin ever knowing they were in the store. Bummer. Even the scene where Stacy and Margaret have to brief each other on their lives before making the swap, a situation that should be rife with comedic potential, lacks any fun or excitement. Therein lies the larger problem with The Princess Switch. As wonderful as it is to make fun of (which, trust me, it is), the movie itself isn’t very fun. The movie is overflowing with campy and ridiculous moments and plot devices, but never indulges in them. Honestly, it really felt like it was missing a musical number. Obviously most movies would benefit from having an awesome and out of place musical number, but how are you going to put Vanessa Hudgens, who’s an actual singer, in this gorgeous gown and NOT have her sing a Disney-inspired ballad about her dreams and true love? I’m disappointed Netflix. Not angry, just disappointed.
As silly and terrible as it is, I can’t hate The Princess Switch. Honestly, I’ll probably end up watching it again next year. It’s perfect to have on in the background while you wrap presents or decorate your tree. If you really want to get the most out of it though, gather your closest friends, open a few bottles of wine, and laugh your head off at this nonsensical piece of Christmas fluff. It’s my deepest wish that like A Christmas Prince, Netflix decides to make a sequel and then we can enjoy even more horrific accents, thinly-veiled sex metaphors, and hopefully, a musical number. Come on Netflix. If Riverdale (2017 – present) can squeeze an unnecessary musical number into every damn episode, I’m sure you can figure it out.
Have you seen The Princess Switch? What are your favourite cheesy Christmas movies?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!