With late November fast approaching, we are nearing the time of cheesy Christmas films being fired out at a rapid pace. Whether the highly formulaic festive films are inviting or the exact opposite is simply down to personal taste, but it’s hard to believe The Princess Switch has enough imagination or charm for even the biggest Christmas lovers—and it’s likely the “movies like The Princess Switch” module on Netflix will be overflowing with predictable look-alikes.
The highly derivative place-switching narrative is a mash up of multiple inspirations, with rings of The Parent Trap, The Princess Diaries, and practically every other rom-com centered around a woman trying to fulfil a role that doesn’t come naturally to her while getting attached to what comes with it. The Princess Switch is trope after trope, with simple characters and a lack of innovation. The rehashing of what has already been done is nothing new for Christmas romances, but it’s especially bothersome here because the cosy winter festival setting and Vanessa Hudgens’ breezy performances are quite nice and perhaps deserved a script that aspired to more.
“There’s nothing like a happy ending to make someone cry.”
If you’ve seen a film set around the holidays where a woman falls in love with a divorced man with a daughter who is ready for a new mother, or if you’ve seen a place-switching film where the characters enjoy their new lives until the pressure of the lies catch up, you’ve already seen this. Where films like Freaky Friday (body switching vs. place but still very similar) elevated the material with great comedy and genuine comfort movie charm, The Princess Switch burrows under its own thin layer of narrative and refuses to expand on any horizons to define it as something other than another average flick of its sorts.
This isn’t a TV movie—with that there’s a hope that perhaps visually or in some other creative direction it would rise above a lot of the wholesome movies that have graced the small screen with their low bars and availability—but Michael Rohl’s sweet-toothed romp sits in a boring middle ground. It doesn’t look awful, but with the opportunity for delightful snowy scenes and glimmers of tinsel it misses the mark and does just look ordinary. The score is there but is so plain it’s barely noticeable and incapable of adding any type of atmosphere other than a constant cheerfulness.
Through all its faults, The Princess Switch isn’t woeful or annoying, and for Christmas movie marathoners I’m sure it will fill some kind of slot with its cute attitude and dedicated to the cause performances—but it’s hard to picture kids enjoying it, because it largely progresses through uninspired and unfunny dialogue, and for the adults it relies massively on your ability to see something more in the clichés you’ve almost certainly sat through before.
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Hello, I am a Scottish filmmaker who enjoys writing about movies and reading comics! You can follow me on Twitter @_trudiegraham or on Instagram @tru.die