Against the wishes of my significant other, I’m beginning a new Christmas Tradition. The tradition of watching every appalling Christmas movie that Netflix releases. It might be a solo-tradition that I undertake, but seeing the slew of titles alone that are available, how can one resist the call? After the hilarious tragedy that was 2017’s A Christmas Prince, I decided that The Princess Switch was the logical one to follow-up with.
The Princess Switch stars Vanessa Hudgens, who I’m probably supposed to know from some Disney/ High School Musical/ after school special/ Justin Bieber relationship (or something?) No idea. She’s a baker. She’s also a Duchess. Confused? Let me explain.
Like most Christmas movies, this one starts with a Christmas song. It opens in a bakery in Chicago, with Stacey (Hudgens) and her Best Friend, just-a-platonic-relationship dude, Kevin.
“Y’know the Christmas baking competition you keep talking about?” the big chunk of opening exposition from Kevin begins. In that made-up country that sounds super European where everyone seems to speak English in British accents? That competition you always wanted to do (stakes!) but that you were too scared to do (does that sound like FEAR we need to overcome?) that we secretly entered you into because of your recently-dumped-heartache, and oh did we mention that it’s all-expenses paid because we wanted to ensure there weren’t any silly little plot holes in establishing this story line? Did we mention that doing the competition could put the bakery ON THE MAP? Because, despite being wildly successful in Chicago, in a space that 5 NYC studio apartments could fit, they’re not on the map?
Christmas story exposition is on point babes.
Stacey then bumps into her ex and his over-explaining new girlfriend who we’re calling Ms Whatever. She’s the kind of girl who makes her boyfriend wait outside of the store she’s visiting, and then when she’s done shopping, she opens the door and greets him with a huge kiss (as though she’s only just bumping into him for the first time in weeks.) The ‘boyfriend forgetter.’ She also hasn’t heard of Stacey because the ex-BF hasn’t mentioned her once. Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and say he’s talked about her plenty, but whenever her name comes up Ms Whatever starts hearing Mariah Carey songs in her head.
“So much for Christmas wishes,” says Stacey to the random guy she spoke to on the street 2 minutes before. “It isn’t Christmas yet!” he exclaims. Oh boy. I am here for this schamozzle.
Stacey and her best friend Kevin and the best friend’s small child fly to Europe and blah blah blah some Duchess is going to be getting married to the Prince of made-up-European-country, but no one knows what she looks like because… she’s camera shy? In 2018? No-one knows what the Duchess looks like? Really? Not a single person, in the made-up-country, whose Prince is about to get married, and no one knows what his bride looks like? No-one? And they were doing so well with rounding-out the plot.
Brianna (who we will refer to as bitch-face) says something about training with Stacey at the Cordon Bleu, and about how she’s most likely going to be making something trashy with Cheetos because Brianna’s a bitch face. She tips something down Stacey’s apron which means Stacey has to go get changed… which allows her to bump right into the Duchess of somewhere-or-other and realise they LOOK IDENTICAL (whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?)
So, naturally, the first thing that Stacey says is “You’re the Duchess of *mumble* who’s getting married to the Prince!” Because of course that’s the first thing you’re going to say as you bash the audience over the head and remind them that GETTING MARRIED TO THE PRINCE IS REALLY IMPORTANT, M’KAY? Never mind the competition that she’s here to witness, that you’ve been wanting to attend all your life, that you’ve been honing your baking skills for over the years, that you’ve been avoiding out of fear but are now facing because dammit you want to live your life!
Nope. Getting married. Prince. Gotcha. Priorities.
The Duchess tries to recruit Stacey to make her wedding cake. She invites her to the palace for a secret consultation. I’m not sure she’s going to be asked to design a wedding cake, or a new jacket because the Duchess looks like she was bored with plain pink and had someone pipe frosting onto it to accent the lines…
Meanwhile, at the palace, the Duchess enlists the aid of someone at the palace to do some plausible-exposition on whether they’re related. They might be very distantly related, but it’s not enough to explain why they’re practically the same actre- I mean, person. That’s not how genetics work, but for a Christmas movie it seems to be the best explanation they come up with.
Duchess gets straight to the point – she wants to swap places with heartache-Stacey. She makes it sound easy, there’s only a breakfast with the King and Queen to worry about, otherwise it’s two days of blissful chilling out. Despite the baking competition (remember, the one that she’s been wanting to do practically her whole life?) she agrees to the swap.
They go over Stacey’s smart-phone photos, so that the Duchess can get up to scratch. And of course, what follows is a montage of Stacey becoming would-be-royalty. A haircut. Outfit changes. Learning to walk with a stick up her butt… which leads to the line “you WILL learn TO DO hair spray,” as though she doesn’t have a choice on the matter.
What follows are your classic fish-out-of-water shenanigans, where the Prince changes his schedule to spend more time with his bride-to-be, and Stacey is challenged in more ways than one. The Duchess struggles to make toast and the young-child who is taken along for the ride figures out that the two women have swapped lives. Naturally, Stacey falls for the Duchess’ Prince, and the Duchess falls for Stacey’s best friend.
This film isn’t setting out to change Western culture for the better, and it’s not trying to win awards for exceptional story or performance – that’s not the purpose of this Christmas movie (or most of them for that matter). So, for what this movie is, Hudgens does a good job. Appropriately hammy when the moment calls for it, she plays both characters with good humour, with just enough seriousness to give the relationships some weight and to carry the stakes of the story.
Sam Palladio plays the dashing Prince appropriately for this type of film, and never overshadows Hudgens – allowing her to shine front and centre. Nick Sagar is probably the stand-out in the whole film, the most believable of the bunch as Stacey’s best friend Kevin. He’s super likeable and sweet, no pun-intended (he’s the sous chef at the bakery!) Kevin’s daughter, played by Alexa Adeosun, is also delightful; according to IMDB, this is her first movie, and she definitely holds her own against the more experienced actors in the ensemble.
The best part of the film – when the Duchess and Kevin sit down to watch a Christmas movie, they put on Netflix. Kevin decides they should watch Stacey’s favourite film. What is it? A CHRISTMAS PRINCE. You guys, NETFLIX HAS GONE FULL META on this one.
In short, this is your classic Netflix Christmas movie. It has unrequited love (times two!), royalty, baking, villains, a wedding, sabotage, a cooking competition, AND it’s self-referential. Does the film perpetuate the horrible narrative that “any woman can become a princess?” For sure. But I’m not here to unpack that, I’m here for the garbage. While this film isn’t as “good” as A Christmas Prince (and by “good” I mean so-freaking-awful-it’s-hilarious), it’ll certainly satisfy your romantic Christmas movie itch.
I give it 3/5 Christmas Trees.