Think back to this time last year when Netflix changed the history of Christmas films by releasing one of the worst yet most compelling Christmas films in recent years. For an entire month, the internet became obsessed with A Christmas Prince and, when news came of a sequel, everyone was excited to continue the story. What nobody was ready for was the increased volume of original Christmas films to come out of the streaming service. Each trailer I saw was worse than the last and, if I’m honest, my excitement to watch them was only increasing. As we know, I love a Christmas film and a cheesy and obvious Christmas film is even better. I have decided to only review Netflix films for December and I decided to start with a doozy. A film that was essentially The Lizzie McGuire Movie meets A Christmas Prince? Starring Vanessa Hugdens sporting a terrible British accent? Who wouldn’t be desperate to see that?
Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper was first published in 1881 and I’m sure if he were alive in 2018 he’d love to see the life-swap idea being put to such good use. There’s no denying that films have made good use of the conceit over the years with a variety of results. Netflix’s latest gets a Christmas twist as Vanessa Hudgens takes on the duel role of a Chicago baker and the Duchess of a fake European country. We first meet her as Stacy DeNovo, owner of a small bakery who gets accepted to compete in a huge baking competition in Belgravia. She is joined by her best friend and business partner, Kevin (Nick Sagar) and his daughter, Olivia (Alexa Adeosun). During their trip, Stacy bumps into the British accented Margaret Delacourt, Duchess of Montenaro. Margaret is set to marry the Prince of Belgravia (Sam Palladio) but is suffering from cold feet. In Stacy, she sees her only chance to experience what it is to lead a “normal” life outside of the spotlight. So, the pair decide to swap lives for a couple of days. What could go wrong?
Well, even anyone who hasn’t gone through a life-swap narrative before will be able to guess where this is going. Stacy and Margaret are polar opposites: one a control freak who wants to plan every detail of her life and the other just wants to have some fun for a change. Stacy, obviously, starts to connect with Prince Edward (Sam Palladio) when she discovers he’s also a lover of the itinerary. At the same time, Margaret finds herself falling for Kevin. How ever will the two of them work this out? I don’t know. I’m not a mathematician.
So, it’s safe to say that The Princess Switch is as predictable as any other swapping film. You know from the start where we’re going with this and you just have to sit back and wait for it to happen. Yes, the whole thing is quite sweet but there is neither enough originality or humour to really make this different. And because of that you can’t help but pick holes in the whole thing. For example, how nobody notices that the Duchess has suddenly forgotten all royal protocol and gives more of a shit about changing everything up. Or why Kevin, who has been more than happy being Stacy’s friend for years, suddenly starts to reciprocate Margaret’s feelings despite believing she’s his childhood friend. Or the fact that the whole baking competition subplot if stupid an unnecessary. The film is super short as it is so you can tell how flimsy the plot is based on how many extra stories there are going on.
Is Vanessa Hudgens charming in her duel roles? Yes. Is her British accent super grating and annoying? Yes! Everything about this film is dreadful and obvious. It’s lowest common denominator and is so simplistic its sad. She has some chemistry with Sagar but her scenes with Palladio are super boring. Just like in The Christmas Prince before it, you just don’t feel that these two are destined to be great lovers. They’re just two people who fall in love based on geography and convenience. Then there’s the fact that the whole thing gets a bit Midsummer Nights Dream thanks to the mysterious old man who appears to be pulling everyone’s strings. It’s just assumed that we’ll accept that he’s a magical, matchmaking Christmas elf or whatever but it’s never explained enough.
The Princess Switch isn’t the worst film ever but it suffers from a small budget and a lack of care. It never really portrays the glamour of the Royal fairy-tale that it’s trying to sell. It’s all kind of underwhelming and normal. The cakes on display at he baking competition are not only clearly made of cardboard but they’re really badly decorated. And I swear that certain scenes were lifted straight out of A Christmas Prince and had Hudgens CGI’d into them. Speaking of A Christmas Prince, my all time favourite film scene of the year has to be the time Kevin sits down with Stacy to watch her favourite film and we’re treated to some shots of their popular Christmas film to remind us all it exists… as if we could ever forget. Although, I fear the reference will only have the adverse effect of making people wish they were watching that instead. Although, probably not.
Who is Murdocal? A casual critic who is a little bit too obsessed with pop culture. A young woman who swears and rants much more than she knows she should whilst trying to make her way in an adult world she isn't prepared for. A not as recent as she'd like literature graduate who, between job applications and subsequent rejections, has turned to the internet to fight the boredom and review the shit out of everything.
"Maybe, just maybe, I'm the faller. Every family has someone who falls, who doesn't make the grade, who stumbles, who life trips up. Maybe I'm our faller."