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Since Netflix kicked off its holiday romantic comedy collection of films with A Christmas Prince, a stack of shamelessly delectable sugar cookies have followed to match our end of the year wind-down. In 2018, the streaming service went bigger with more offerings to spread Xmas cheer with Kurt Russell playing a suave Santa in Christmas Chronicles and double the Vanessa Hudgens for Princess Switch. This holiday season, Netflix has a potluck of original holiday films to call its own once again, including second helpings of those two 2018 hits – first up being Mike Rohl’s Princess Switch 2: Switched Again.
The concept of Princess Switch was an easy sell: it’s Princess Diaries meets Parent Trap, and it made for a surprisingly delightful addition to the holiday season. For Switched Again, Vanessa Hudgens once again plays both former baker-turned-princess Stacy and Lady Margaret, the Duchess of Montenaro, who reunite in time for Margaret to be crowned queen of Montenero during the Christmas season. Stacy is too in her own head to appreciate the charming prince in front of her (Sam Palladio’s Edward) and Margaret is caught between her ex Kevin (Nick Sagar) and a new suitor, and both are caught by surprised when a third lookalike enters the story.
This sequel is just about everything you’d expect. Breathtaking interiors of English castles lined with tinsel and warm lighting, winks of cozy romance and a set of ridiculous hijinks to watch unfold. Princess Switch 2 checks all the boxes in terms of atmospheric glee and heartfelt moments, but it goes for the safe and generic direction when possible. It’s entertaining enough, and truly saved by Vanessa Hudgens given room to play around with three personas.
It’s a Vanessa Hudgens doppelgänger world, and everyone’s just living in it.
The kicker of Switched Again is not only that Stacy and Lady Margaret decide to yes, you guessed it, switch again, but that there’s another doppelgänger in Margaret’s cousin, Fiona. Hudgens wigs up as a blonde and wears clothing reminiscent of Cruella de Vil to play a chaotic new character who mixes up the pair of lookalikes a bit into a three-way switcheroo. Fiona allows Hudgens to let loose in a fun way that she’s not been allowed to do with the conventional and do-good characters of Stacy and Margaret. Fiona spices up the sequel and it’s great to see Hudgens go off the rails a little with her. But for as ridiculous as it is, it’s not ridiculous enough.
Vanessa Hudgens is the complete show here. And it’s really impressive how much the movie places on her shoulders as she rises to the occasion. Hudgens has to play multiple characters who are pretending to be another one of her characters and that’s a fun challenge to watch play out. The actress has to be the straight woman and wacky wild card in the same movie, and she and the production make it seamless. It’s fun to see her play off herself. If you’re also coming off the trick being used with Seth Rogen for the charming An American Pickle over the summer or Paul Rudd in the affecting Living With Yourself last year, it’s not exactly magic in the modern era.
You’ll sniff out where The Princess Switch 2 is going miles away.
The moment Vanessa Hudgens’ Fiona makes her entrance into the ballroom in Princess Switch you’ll guess what’s going to happen here. We’ve seen enough switcheroo movies to guess. Sadly, Princess Switch 2 takes the formula and matches it with some quite thin writing. There’s a lot of missed opportunity here to play with the concept with fun comedic bits or to deepen the characters established. Both Hudgens’ characters are completely and utterly defined by their ties to romantic interests, and the men in their lives, while handsome, are dealing with some pretty surface-level situations. Still, it mostly works well enough and you’ll likely find yourself smiling if you keep an empty head about the whole thing.
The Princess Switch 2 delivers nothing new from the holiday rom-com, but it’ll satisfy your sweet tooth.
Princess Switch 2 lives in this alternate fantasy movie world found in old Disney movies or the Hallmark channel. It’s fun escapism and in that sense the sequel is just about everything one would expect from an easy, breezy romantic comedy for the holidays. It’s the vanilla latte or store bought holiday-themed sugar cookie. Dependable, it tastes good enough and feels traditional and gets you into the spirit. Next time will Princess Switch 3 unveil the government lab cloning all these Vanessa Hudgens look-alikes and get weird with it, please? Sugar cookies get stale real fast!