12 Days of Netflix: The Princess Switch
Ivan Radford | On 13, Dec 2018
Director: Mike Rohl
Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, Nick Sagar
Watch The Princess Switch online in the UK: Netflix UK
We unwrap a different Christmas film from Netflix’s dubious seasonal selection every day. For 12 days. It’s the 12 Days of Netflix.
“A warm horse is a happy horse – and nothing’s better than a happy horse.” “The puree’s not as smooth as I’d hoped.” “It’s the pants. They must have shrunk in the royal wash.” These are all actual words that are actually said in The Princess Switch, a Netflix Christmas movie that actually exists. And yet, against all the odds, every one of these things is something to be grateful for.
The film, which stars Vanessa Hudgens and – you guessed it – Vanessa Hudgens, takes the classic switcheroo formula and gives it a festive facelift. The Prince and the Pauper: Snow Day. The Parent Trap Goes to the North Pole. And so we’re introduced to Stacy (Hudgens), a young baker who runs a successful bakery in Chicago. She works with her best friend, Kevin (Sagar), who has a daughter, Olivia (Alexa Adeosun), but things are strictly platonic. The heat gets turned up a few degrees, though, when Kevin enters them into the Royal Baking Contest of Belgravia and, while there, Stacy bumps into Lady Margaret Delacort (Hudgens). Amazed that they look alike, Margaret proposes they swap places – only for a few days, until Stacy has to compete in the contest, and until Margaret has to get hitched to Prince Edward (Nashville’s Sam Palladio).
It’s a ridiculous suggestion, but one that both go along with regardless – Margaret to get out of the royal spotlight, and Stacy to get Olivia a place at Belgravia’s ballet school in exchange. It’s that kind of little touch that gives The Princess Switch just enough brains (and more than enough heart) to sell its corny premise. When Stacy and Edward are together, for example, rather than have her turn into a swooning puddle, she spends her time calling him out for being sexist and trying to maintain the deception so that she can go back to her first love: not handsome suitors, but baking. When Margaret and Kevin are together, meanwhile, she’s quickly found out by Olivia, which turns their subplot into a fun story of female bonding as much as a burgeoning romance.
That’s not to say The Princess Switch is smart. It isn’t. This is a film where nobody bats an eyelid when the personality of Stacy changes overnight from someone who’s fanatically organised to someone who’s wildly impulsive, where people declare they love someone more than they’ve ever loved someone before, despite only knowing them for two days, and where young women apparently take life advice from a twinkly-eyed old man who keeps popping up in every scene, like some kind of wizard who’s magically already read the script – or an agent of the Russian secret service determined to destabilise the kingdom of Belgravia through sinister matchmaking. It’s also a film where the makers forget to replace Vanessa Hudgens’ body double every now and then, and where the actress’ tattoo can be visibly seen on both character’s hands.
But Vanessa Hudgens (when it is her on screen) powers through the whole thing on sheer charm alone, and she has charm to spare. She’s visibly having far too much fun as the velvety-voiced Duchess of Montenaro (complete with overly thick British accent), and even more so when she’s pretending to be a rich person mimicking Stacy’s hip Chicago swagger. So what if neither character is technically a Princess? And so what if the Crown Prince one of them is meant to marry is actually a bland cardboard cut-out of a human being? For every misstep like that, there’s something to enjoy, like Mark Fleischmann’s hammy British butler, Frank, who suspects something is afoot and tries to expose it – or like Adeosun’s Olivia, who spies a chance to get her dad to fall in love with an actual Duchess.
The result is an unexpectedly well balanced mix of stupid and adorably stupid – unlike A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (which shares a co-writer with this film), The Princess Switch has enough of a pre-existing formula to run on rails without challenging anyone involved. There’s no talk of constitutional crises or fiscal policies. There’s horse riding, piano recitals and reading stories to orphans. Director Mike Rohl (whose CV includes a film called Love at First Bark) happily colours in between the genre’s rigid lines, ensuring Hudgens has enough room to milk the daft dialogue for all its worth, not to mention swan about trying on fancy clothes and mix some puree (shock, horror) by hand. Will you be surprised by anything that happens? No – the most shocking thing is that when the proposal of a wedding does rear its head, it’s done so in an oddly sensible way. But will you be entertained? Absolutely. This cutely acted, ruthlessly undemanding affair is just the right side of braindead to make for ideal Christmas viewing. After all, you know what they say: a warm horse is a happy horse. Right?
The Princess Switch is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.