Movie Review: The Princess Switch



Stacy DeNovo (Vanessa Hudgens) embraces Prince Edward (Sam Palladio) during a scene in the seasonal Rom-Com, The Princess Switch.

Nick Eddinger, Photography Managing Editor

With holiday cheer and festivities coming to an end, Netflix beckons yet another round of low-budget, uninspired, feel-good Christmas movies to bring a sense of wholeness to your living-room. Last year saw the notable addition of “The Christmas Prince” which shook families with its tooth-achingly sweet holiday plot about what the season truly means. This year, there are many other new additions, some maybe not as cheer-inducing as last season’s offerings. “The Princess Switch,” directed by Michael Rohl, tries its best to produce a warm, fuzzy feeling from the audience with its invigorating lead and some true instances of sharply written humor, but it is not enough to save it from a poor sense of direction and the pungent smell of holiday cliche.

If you have gotten this far, it is fair for you to know that there is nothing to outright hate about “The Princess Switch” as a Christmas movie. It checks all the boxes for a tacky plot about the significance of love and family during the holidays. If you are looking for a refresher from considerably more entertaining modern classics like “The Santa Clause” and “Elf”, then look no further. However, if you are expecting this film to blow your metaphorical stockings off, then you might want to pass.

The premise of the movie is actually quite amusing, to say the least. The main character, Stacy De Novo, played by Vanessa Hudgens, is invited to an annual baking competition in Belgravia with her good friend and sous-chef, Kevin, played by Nick Sagar, and his daughter, Olivia, played by Alexa Adeosun. There, Stacy meets her doppelganger Duchess Margaret Delacourt, also played by Hudgens, who is to be married to Prince Edward of Belgravia, played by Sam Palladio. At the Duchess’s request, Stacy switches places with her for two days so that Margaret can finally understand what it’s like to be normal while in the company of Kevin and Olivia, while Stacy gets a taste of royalty while spending time with Prince Edward. Chaos ensues as feelings begin changing and what results is a heartfelt storyline that’s been done too many times for me to fully enjoy. While the ending is quite predictable, I found myself wanting to at least see it through to the end for prosperity’s sake.

The acting from Hudgens was actually quite notable and is one of the more seemingly acting intensive roles I’ve seen her do in a while. It was quite amusing to see her talking to herself when both the Duchess and Stacy were in the same room and was worlds better than when the same technique was used in the car fire that was 2011’s “Jack and Jill”. Hudgens accent work was both comical and refreshing. As Stacy began to attempt the Duchess’s posh British accent during the switch, you could still hear her strong American accent creep through at times which was a nice little touch. Hudson’s interactions with, well, herself, were quite entertaining as well. Within the layers and layers of hackneyed dialogue and mountains of unoriginal holiday jabber lies some good one-liners and interactions. The conversations between Hudgens and herself elicited a few giggles. Not many other actors stood out. Mark Fleischmann’s droll delivery of his lines as Frank was humorous. The rest of the acting was not egregiously bad, it was just…adequate.  

Where “The Princess Switch” truly falls flat is, not in the acting, but in the directing of the production. Scenes are framed quite lazily and the lighting and cinematography produced strange effects akin to that of day time soap-operas where everyone seems to have a bright LED light pointed at their face, no matter where the sun is placed in the world. The editing feels rushed, with some audio being placed in very odd and stilted locations. The first quarter of the movie almost feels like a trailer. The attention to detail was also noticeably sloppy. A piano Stacy and Prince Edward play together oddly has no foot pedals attached to it, and some of Hudgens’s dialogue with herself is cut very strangely. For such a simple plot, one would think it would be easier to catch these sort of things.

“The Princess Switch” hold within itself an interesting conundrum. It aims for the classic Christmas movie vibe, with the lead and the narrative premise to back it up. However, the film leaves so many parts falling off the back of the truck. After finishing the film, it left me wondering what could have been were the movie given a more gifted director and a more committed production staff. While much of the movie seemed like a waste of time to me, I can give it a commendation for being able to pull off a quite heartwarming ending. For all its flaws, both the cast, in combination with a gleeful holiday fanfare, were able to give a momentarily heartwarming final 10 minutes where everything you’ve been watching comes together, with every little loose end tied. Whether this movie is worth the other 81 minutes to get that final, cozy little feeling is still debatable. No doubt there are better movies that elicit the same response. If you have nothing better to do, then be my guest and watch. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed if you know what you’re in for, but there are very few scenarios in which I could see you being happily surprised.