Netflix UK film review: The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star
Ivan Radford | On 24, Dec 2021
Director: Mike Rohl
Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Remy Hii, Sam Palladio, Nick Sagar, Amanda Donohoe, Florence Hall, Ricky Norwood, Suanne Braun, Mark Fleischmann, Will Kemp
Vanessa Hudgens, Vanessa Hudgens and Vanessa Hudgens. Audiences know exactly what to expect from Netflix’s The Princess Switch – specifically, Vanessa Hudgens having a ball. So much of a ball, in fact, that it’s impossible not to enjoy even the most clichéd of scripts.
After the first film saw Chicago baker Stacy (Hudgens), and her lookalike, Margaret (Hudgens), the Duchess of Montenaro, swap places – only for them to each fall for the other person’s male suitor: Stacy’s co-worker Kevin (Sagar) and Margaret’s fiancee, Prince Edward (Sam Palladio) – the second film introduced Lady Fiona (Vanessa Hudgens), Margaret’s wayward cousin who attempted to steal the throne. This unlikely third entry in what is now one of Netflix’s biggest festive franchises moves us out of the throne room to let Fiona take centre stage.
We pick things up as preparations are underway for a Christmas festival in Montenaro, but the Star of Peace that sits atop the tree – on loan from the Vatican, no less – has been stolen, which means that Stacy and Margaret have to recruit some risky help: Fiona, who’s a dab hand at stealing back jewels. Faster than you can say “holiday heist”, The Princess Switch 3 has set the stage for less a stodgy Christmas flick and more cracking caper.
And so we watch as Fiona attempts to get close once more to old flame and Star-stealing villain Hunter Cunard (Will Kemp), while also rekindling her romance with former Interpol agent Peter (Remy Hii) – and bringing with her returning sidekicks Reggie (Ricky Norwood) and Mindy (Florence Hall). And, of course, Stacy, Margaret, Kevin and Edward all tag along, not to mention Frank (Mark Fleishmann), the castle’s stalwart butler/Chief of Staff.
What ensues is so unexpected that it blows the cobwebs out of the clichés that adorn cinema’s usual Christmas fare, as director Mike Rohl strings together a just about cohesive string of set-pieces and flirtatious exchanges – because capers aren’t complete without some rom-com frisson to boot. That comes largely from Remy Hii’s enjoyably slinky spy and Will Kemp’s wonderfully hammy bad boy, but the show undoubtedly belongs to Hudgens and she relishes the chance to go full Fiona her, pouting at the end of every sentence and saying things like “We had a bit of a steamy” with a knowing smirk. There’s some switcheroo on offer too, of course, most notably in an inspired sequence that intercuts a racy tango dance with laser-dodging acrobatics. Strictly Come Dancing meets Entrapment? This surprising festive sequel is the Christmas present you didn’t know you wanted.