18th December: The Princess Switch

Image: Netflix

The Reel Time Christmas Movie Advent Calendar is exactly what it says on the tin: a classic festive countdown, except instead of chocolate behind the windows it’s my ramblings on a host of Christmas films. In true advent calendar style, films will not be announced in advance, but revealed at 6pm each day. Get involved by shouting abuse at me on Twitter and Facebook, or even just reading and sharing. I hope this can bring a little cheer at the end of a miserable year. Enjoy! 

Year: 2018

Director: Mike Rohl

Writers: Robin Bernheim, Megan Metzger

Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Nick Sagar, Sam Palladio, Alexa Adeosun

May contain spoilers.

I think, maybe, I’m too nice. Perhaps my standards are too low, or possibly I am just very easily pleased. I went into The Princess Switch expecting it to be the worst film of this Christmas Movie Advent Calendar so far, and to have the opportunity to rip into it for laughs here. In fact, it put a smile on my face, and I don’t feel much like ripping into it.

That’s partly because being mean about films to get more readers is not a journalistic approach I admire that much, however skilful it may be. There’s enough negativity in the world without me being gleefully critical, and I’m sure most fellow film journalists would agree with me when I say it is a shame that our most gushing, praise-heavy reviews are not the ones likely to grab attention.

The other reason I’m not going to have a big long go at The Princess Switch is because its flaws are fairly obvious from the premise and poster alone. The basic, pretty thin plot, the cheesy love story, the predictable ending and so on and so forth. It is what a lot of people would call ‘a shit film’, whilst also insisting that they want to see it. A film that seems to have no aspirations of ‘quality’, but is entertaining nonetheless.

I actually think that a lot of ‘shit films’ are very good films, and people too readily use that term just because something is a rom-com or supposedly intended for a young female audience. For example, if anyone ever calls Clueless ‘a shit film’ in front of me then they will be receiving a stern telling off. The Princess Switch does fall perfectly into that stereotyped bracket, however, ticking every box you expect it too and wrapping every plot thread up in a neat little Christmas bow.

As I’ve said, I’m sure there are enough people informing us of the film’s flaws. So how about what it’s good at? Well, Vanessa Hudgens is perfect for a start. Sweet and charming, she is a classic rom-com lead, but she can bring some depth and complexity to her characters that is necessary in her dual-role here. In case you hadn’t realised, by the way, The Princess Switch is about a princess who swaps places with a Chicago baker who happens to be identical to her. Hudgens plays both of them. Rom-com shenanigans ensue.

Another strength is how far the film leans into its ridiculous royal fantasy. The royals are all from either ‘Belgravia’ or ‘Montenaro’, two fictional places where everyone has a posh English accent. Of course they do, because all royalty sound exactly the same, and live in a ginger-bread village like world where they rule over their loving kingdoms with benevolence and ease. The makers of this film know that Britain is not like this (hence the fictional countries), they know that monarchies are not like this (not that I would know), and they have no interest in getting into the complexities of republicanism. Instead they take the stereotyped, Queen’s English Britain and push it to the max.

It is a deliberately ridiculous world, typified by Hudgens’ accent. If you said to me that was the best British accent she could do, I would be highly critical. If you know that she’s aiming for outrageously posh English royalty, then it’s spot on. All she had to do was lean into caricature and she would succeed. The rest of the cast are pretty likeable too, and the happy ending, however derivative, did make me happy. Is that not enough for a film to have at least some merit?

There is a sequel, The Princess Switch: Switched Again, that landed on Netflix last month and I should probably have watched for this article. One Christmas film a day is proving enough for me at the moment, though. If you really loved this then I gather that there’s some other Netflix Original, glossy-looking Christmas films with a weird royalty obsession going on. There’s three in the A Christmas Prince series for a start. Maybe I’ll come back to them later on.

Where it Ranks

I started this article saying that I expected The Princess Switch to be the worst film on this list so far. On reflection, I think that it is the worst film. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. Nor does it mean that I am not oddly excited about watching the sequel.

  1. Die Hard
  2. Happiest Season
  3. Klaus
  4. Arthur Christmas
  5. Black Christmas
  6. The Muppet Christmas Carol
  7. Elf
  8. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  9. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  10. Love Actually
  11. Gremlins
  12. Home Alone
  13. Krampus
  14. Nativity!
  15. The Holiday
  16. Noelle
  17. The Santa Clause
  18. The Grinch
  19. The Princess Switch

Andrew Young

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