Netflix’s Christmas Queen Drops More Coal in Your Stocking
The latest cheesy low-budget Christmas film from the streaming giant sees Vanessa Hudgens play three characters. It does not bring Christmas cheer.
Netflix’s latest addition to the cheesy, low-budget Christmas movie canon—of which I am typically a huge fan—is only around an hour-and-a-half long, but it feels much, much longer. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on how interested you are in watching Vanessa Hudgens try out a bunch of different accents with varying degrees of success.
The Princess Switch: Switched Again, available on the streaming platform now, is a follow-up to 2018’s The Princess Switch, in which Disney Channel alum Hudgens plays identical fourth cousins who meet by chance in a foreign country.
Hijinks and utterly predictable romantic plotlines ensue as Stacy, a baker from Chicago played by Hudgens, switches places with Margaret, a duchess from fictional Belgravia, also played by Hudgens. The big twist of the sequel is that in addition to Stacy and Margaret, Hudgens takes on the role of a new, third cousin only she’s evil and they put her in a blonde wig to make it seem more believable, I guess?
The film starts as these sorts of movies often do—with five straight minutes of unabashed exposition to set the scene. “You probably remember me,” Hudgens narrates. “I’m Stacy, that baker from Chicago who flew to Belgravia to enter a baking contest, but then switched places with Margaret, the Duchess of Montenaro, who looks just like me!”
“I’m guessing you remember that I married Prince Edward”—I actually completely forgot this part—“and you probably remember that Margaret fell in love with my best friend, Kevin,” she continues.
Now, two years later, Stacy is a princess, Margaret and Kevin (Nick Sagar) have parted ways, and the abrupt death of the King of Montenaro means Margaret is next in line to the throne. And her coronation is set to take place on none other than Christmas Day.
Stacy and Prince Edward (Sam Palladio) are happily married, but Stacy is too busy worrying about the dissolution of her twin-cousin’s love life and impending royal status to pay attention to her husband. She comes up with the brilliant idea to invite Kevin to the coronation, and then switch places with Margaret again so the two can have alone time because, you know, plot.
Which brings me to my favorite confusing rom-com trope: adults being super invested in other adults’ love lives. It’s one thing to want your friends to be happy, but it’s entirely another to risk sabotaging your own marriage by plotting an elaborate ruse involving identity theft. The Princess Switch: Switched Again also delivers on an offshoot of this trope, in which a precocious child is super invested in her parents’ love life.
And we haven’t even gotten to the third Vanessa Hudgens character yet. At one point in the film, a bemused clergyman exclaims, “Oh dear lord, there are three of them!” and it really feels like a missed opportunity that this line was not plastered all over the promotional materials.
Vanessa Hudgens has become something of a Christmas queen—Netflix’s edgier answer to the Hallmark Channel’s Candace Cameron Bure. This sequel goes all-in on Hudgens and the Princess Switch look-alike fun, introducing a new villain played by the High School Musical star, Lady Fiona Pembroke, whose first line is, “Yo! Let’s get this party started, shall we?”
Lady Fiona comes in hot to a royal ball flanked by two pickpocketing “minions” who vaguely resemble Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski. Everything about her is cringe-worthy, from her wildly inappropriate black-tie wardrobe choice of leather leggings, to the fact that she replaces the word “spooky” with “spoopy” for some unclear reason.
But Fiona’s tackiness is kind of the whole point. Her main purpose, besides adding to the sight gag of seeing three (three!) Vanessa Hudgenses on screen at once, is to create tension by trying to steal the throne from Margaret so she can afford a lavish lifestyle. This is an oversimplification of her villainous plan, which of course involves some poorly-executed switching, but the plot is too needlessly complex to distill here.
Essentially, The Princess Switch: Switched Again is exactly what you would expect if you’ve seen any of Netflix’s similar offerings (A Christmas Prince, The Knight Before Christmas). It’s funny, but only in the moments when it’s not trying to be. There is a lot of fake snow and an extended Christmas decorating montage set to a song from Kelly Clarkson’s delightful holiday album, Wrapped in Red. There’s a jolly old taxi driver who is heavily insinuated to be Santa Claus.
Based on that description, it should come as no surprise that a third Princess Switch movie has already been announced, though Vanessa Hudgens disappointingly insisted that she will not be playing four characters in the upcoming installment.