There is no denying that Netflix have been creating some amazing original content and *cough* re-branded some great channel 4 intellectual property (‘Black Mirror’) *cough* in the past few years – take a look at the Oscar nominated Mudbound, the huge critical success Roma, rom-com hits To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Set It Up, as well as the historical Outlaw King as examples – and its latest holiday film is no exception. The Princess Switch is a perfect Christmas movie.
Don’t believe me? Here’s why.
It’s simple really. In fact, there’s probably only one major reason…
It is every movie you have ever loved, all rolled into one amazing mess of a film. It is so unoriginal and poorly presented (see if you can spot Vanessa Hudgens’ finger tattoo) that you can’t help but to love it.
The Princess Switch is the love-child of The Parent Trap, Roman Holiday and The Lizzie McGuire Movie that is competing in The Great British Bake Off. Now there’s a line you put on a DVD cover…
The movie opens on Stacey De Novo (Vanessa Hudgens) who owns Chicago’s ‘best kept secret’, a charming bakery with her best friend and sous chef, Kevin. Stacey is heartbroken because she was ‘with Paul for three years and Christmas was a really special time’ for them, so she needs a bit of cheering up. Kevin and his daughter Olivia enter her into a famous annual Christmas baking competition in Belgravia. Now of course, Stacey cannot possibly close the shop so close to Christmas – great idea Kevin and Olivia. But, after some divine intervention in the shape of Stacey running into her ex and his new girlfriend in the street, Stacey packs up her things and heads to Belgravia with Kevin and Olivia. This all happens in the first five minutes…
We are in for a roller coaster here kids.
Once in Belgravia, Stacey meets Margaret Delacourt, Duchess of Montenaro (also Vanessa Hudgens) who is engaged to be married to the Prince of Belgravia, Edward. Now, being played by the same person, Stacey and Margaret look exactly like one another. We get a quick and terrible explanation about cousins running off to America and then the switching happens. Margaret wants to know what is like to be a ‘real girl’, so basically forces Stacey to swap places with her. Cue hilarious montage where Stacey, who is played by Vanessa Hudgens, pretends to be Margaret, who is played by Vanessa Hudgens. This is high-brow film making. Once they have switched places, no one seems to notice but everyone spends the rest of the film saying ‘you’re not yourself’ or ‘you are so different’ every five minutes.
The reason why The Princess Switch is the perfect Christmas movie is that it has all the element of a perfect Christmas movie. There is romance that always stays PG to ensure it’s family friendly (complete with longingly loving looks while it’s snowing), there is a sassy 90’s style kid who’s smarter than all the adults in the film, plus the plot is obvious and everything it set up for you.
Just like Christmas, you know exactly what you are going to get.
Now the main thrust of The Princess Switch is the idea of Christmas as a magical time where everything fits together. There are small moments of jeopardy, Stacey and Margaret nearly run into each other, Stacey’s nemesis tries to ruin her chances in the baking competition. However, like all problems in this movie, and at Christmas, they are quickly resolved, often with the help of a wise old man (listed on IMDB as Kindy Man), another Christmas trope. And as I am sure you can guess from the plot points I have mentioned and the reference this movie plays on, everything will work out in the end.
The best moment of The Princess Switch is when Kevin and fake Stacey sit down to watch a Christmas movie and the screen pauses on the Netflix home screen. The sweeter than sweet, most patronising of product placements then turns sour as the fake couple then proceed to watch A Christmas Prince, the movie actively spoiling its fellow Netflix Original for all of us. Well played Netflix.
Despite its obvious plot and set up, there is one thing that this film does that is different to most films of this genre, that is probably the real reason I love it so much. Although Stacey is heartbroken at Christmas, she isn’t lost. She doesn’t need a man to come and save her. She runs her own successful business and it is her that teaches the prince the true meaning of Christmas. Dare I say it. Vanessa Hudgens is my 2019 feminist icon.
Yet, for as much as I may try and read this as a feminist text, The Princess Switch is easy – it’s warm and nonthreatening like every other Christmas movie you remember. Nothing in this movie is a surprise. Just like Christmas, it’s corny and obvious, and the same every single year. You can either fight it, or you can love it.
I choose to love it.