Your Princess is In Another Castle
2018's The Princess Switch is certainly one of the more delightful confections birthed from Netflix's attempts to swoop in on the Hallmark Channel's Christmas presence, but Vanessa Hudgens + high concept Christmas movie isn't always a surefire hit machine, as last year's The Knight Before Christmas taught us. Well, taught me at least, because clearly Netflix is back at the well, which is why we're sitting down today with The Princess Switch: Switched Again.
In case you don't recall, Chicago baker Stacy (Vanessa Hudgens) had herself a bit of a Princess and the Pauper adventure two years ago, switching places with her lookalike, Lady Margaret Delacourt, Duchess of Montenaro (Vanessa Hudgens). She fell in love with Maragret's fiance, Prince Edward (Sam Palladio), and he fell in love right back at her. And Margaret fell in love with Stacy's handsome baker BFF Kevin (Nick Sagar) while watching A Christmas Prince together on Netflix because synergy. Now we catch up with the pair. Stacy is happily married to the prince (he is rather less happily married, because she flatly ignores his desperate desire to just rip her clothes off an ravage her), and Margaret has broken up with Kevin because due to something something monarchy plot point, she is about to be crowned Queen of Montenaro, and that means she can't be in love or whatever. There's a love triangle with her chief of staff because inappropriate workplace romance really gets Hallmark aficionados hot under the collar. Also, her blonde, vapid identical cousin Fiona (Vanessa Hudgens) is in town for the coronation. Wouldn't you know it, but a series of hijinks and schemes (both evil and otherwise) contrive to get those places a-switching.
The Princess Switch: Switched Again encounters the problem that all sequels to romantic movies have: once the couple gets together, the original conflict of whether or not these crazy kids will make it work has completely evaporated. Movies almost always make the wrong choice, throwing in arbitrary hurdles rather than letting the couple be in love and have a different adventure that is separate from the act of forming a heteronormative pair bond. And with its dual protagonist the movie can have its cake, eat it too, then vomit it back up and eat it again. Not only do we get the "they broke up offscreen and must find each other again" sequel ploy, we also get the "unmotivated marital problems that undermine the characters as we know them" maneuver! What luck!
The movie itself palpably doesn't give a shit about the weightless obstacles blocking our heroines' paths to love, which exist only to serve the movements of the plot rather than the other way around. They nevertheless still largely drown out what should structurally be the A-plot of the film: Fiona's gambit to steal Margaret's identity and seize the throne. Focusing on the spineless romance prevents the shoehorned action-comedy of Fiona's plotline from getting enough screen time to have actual stakes, and forgetting to put actual jokes in either half of the movie prevents it from being all that enjoyable to watch anyway. By the time you reach the "henchman running on top of a rolling barrel" gag stripped straight from a silent comedy, the movie has given you so little that counts as "fun" that it feels idiotically saccharine and cartoonish.
That wouldn't be a problem if the entire movie were hitting that register, which it should have been doing all along given its premise. But it's really not. The Princess Switch: Switched Again is a dreary slog that withers away over the course of 96 minutes, during which time just slips quickly by without actually being filled with all that much incident. Gone are the fish out of water hijinks, or any sort of sense that a single one of these three women is struggling with committing to her role in any real way. Because it has literally nothing else to qualify it, the film leans too heavily upon Hudgens' ability to spread her skill at doing one and a half accents between three characters who weren't all that distinct to begin with (Fiona deserves to be a lot more fun, especially considering she's basically just Sharpay Evans from High School Musical).
Though Netflix got the Hallmark movie formula exactly right with the Christmas Prince trilogy, The Princess Switch: Switched Again goes a step further by exactly replicating one of those more anonymous movies that Hallmark might excrete onto the air on a random Tuesday in November: a high concept that will fuel a good commercial or two, but a feature film that bears no distinguishing marks whatsoever. There are no highs and no lows, merely a death grip of mediocrity that chokes the air right out of your lungs.
Brennan Klein is a millennial who knows way more about 80's slasher movies than he has any right to. You can find his other reviews on his blog Popcorn Culture. Follow him on Twitter, if you feel like it.
Categories: netflix originals