The Princess Switch 2: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Movie’s Poster, featuring all three Vanessa Hudgenses

Author’s Notes: This was written for my school’s entertainment magazine. Since its publication, people have thankfully started to talk about the glaring Christmas Prince plot hole. Also, spoilers ahead! All credit for photos goes to their respective owners.

There’s nothing quite like a Netflix Christmas movie. They are the best of the worst — they have better production values, better advertising, more famous casts, are more easily accessible, and have more original concepts than their notorious Hallmark counterparts. Every year for the past few years, as the weather gets colder, my recommended page gets flooded with red and green posters. Netflix’s Christmas movies may not have garnered critical acclaim, but they do have a devoted following, leading to sequels and even trilogies. One example of these movies is 2018’s The Princess Switch and it’s 2020 sequel The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again.

The original Princess Switch was essentially a Parent Trap Christmas movie that, much like many of its peers, has their American protagonist marry into a European royal family that governs countries that the internet has described as “England but with more monarchical control”. Think “the Holy Roman Empire stayed as a federation of states but everyone there spoke English and celebrated Christmas like Americans”. In the first movie, Stacy De Novo, a Chicago-based baker fresh off a break-up with her serious boyfriend, enters into a Christmas baking competition with her painfully platonic coworker Kevin. Stacy, Kevin, and Kevin’s daughter Olivia all travel to Belgravia when Stacy runs into Margaret of Montenarro. Being long-lost cousins, naturally they are identical. Margaret, feeling trapped in her engagement to Edward, Belgravia’s heir to the throne, proposes a switch that type-A Stacy uncharacteristically agrees to. In the end, we have two sets of couples: Stacy and Edward and Margaret and Kevin. The movie ends on an optimistic note as we see Stacy and Edward get married and Margaret catch the bouquet. When we talk about the second movie, The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again, every element can be sorted into one of three main categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Unfortunately, we have to start off with the bad — the plot. When the second movie begins, we see that the fairytale ending of the last movie hasn’t lasted; Stacy and Edward’s marriage has lost its spark and Margaret, after unexpectedly ascending to her country’s throne, was dumped by a panicked Kevin. The biggest selling point of this movie is its addition of a third Vanessa Hudgens with an even worse British accent who acts as the main villain of the story. The third Vanessa Hudgens, along with her two cartoonishly evil friends, successfully kidnap one of the other Vanessa Hudgenses. Much to their dismay, they find they’ve kidnapped Stacy who switched with Margaret so the latter could go on a date with Kevin. The rest is pretty expected. They eventually find Stacy and the third Vanessa Hudgens (I think her name’s Fiona? It doesn’t really matter), having paired up with Margaret’s advisor who was surprisingly willing to betray her after she refused his proposal, Antonio (or “Tony” as Margaret calls him) get arrested, Kevin and Margaret get married, she’s coronated, and everything is alright (until Fiona escapes prison and we have to have another one of these).

Queen Margaret and Kevin at the coronation

This movie was confusing and it kept on dragging on despite its 96 minute runtime. You would think that the story is pretty straightforward, and despite my confusing description, once you watch it and know which Vanessa Hudgens is which the movie’s plot does become clearer, but I felt as if I was waiting for the movie to end the entire time. It wasn’t engaging and the pacing and editing did not help. There was way too much time between the lines and the story either moved extremely slowly or quickly. One of those moments was Stacy and Margaret’s switch. It was too quick, too different from the last movie, and too stupid — they nonsensically insisted that they shouldn’t tell Stacy’s husband Edward even though I’m sure he would have been fine with it. Then, as all the plot threads started to become more intertwined and as we made our way to the end of the movie, everything got worse. Besides Antonio becoming a double agent out of nowhere, there were simply too many characters with not enough attention paid to any of them. This plot and this movie spread themselves too thin. The screenwriters broke a cardinal rule that I learned in the third grade: show don’t tell. This movie was all telling, and it still makes me upset.

Okay, so the plot was bad. To be expected, but what about the acting? This, my dear reader, is where we get our second bad element: the chemistry between Edward and Stacy and even Edward’s character in general. I felt bad for Edward in this movie. You can tell that Vanessa Hudgens has more chemistry with the actor playing Kevin (Nick Sagar) than Edward (Sam Palladio), and Stacy takes any chance she can get to blow him off and keep him out of the loop. Honestly, I’m surprised he’s still in love with her. And they should have fired whoever Vanessa Hudgens’s accent coach is — her more demure British accent as Margaret is still off and it’s not a good look for the production as a whole when your main actor distracts you so much with how they speak that you don’t pay attention to what they are saying. The actors playing the evil Vanessa Hudgens’s sidekicks aren’t great either. As I said earlier, there are almost cartoonishly evil, being the paragons of the loud, clumsy sidekicks. But the bad is never what’s truly interesting; it’s the ugly.

There were so many ugly parts of this movie. There was the shameless replacement of the actress playing Olivia, sure, but the two ugliest parts of the movies were the third Vanessa Hudgens herself and the confusing Christmas Prince cameo that destroyed the fabric of the Netflix Christmas Movie Universe (the MCU and DCEU should watch out). Fiona was truly a shining star in this movie, to the point where I’ve seen multiple internet commentators demanding that by the eighth one of these Princess Switch movies, the movie is a Game of Thrones rip off where every character is played by Vanessa Hudgens. Fiona, as I’ve mentioned, has a worse British accent than Margaret, somehow. She is always over the top, calling Margaret “Maggie Moo” and her “couzy”.

Fiona and her sidekicks

She’s easily the funniest and best part of this entire movie, and every time she was on the screen I lost it. She didn’t even need to say anything — even her stride was hilarious. Still, it was such a hot mess that I am unable to bring myself to put Hudgens’s performance as Fiona in the “good” category. Now, let’s move on to something I have seen no one else talking about, something that has confused me and driven me crazy since I first watched it: the Princess Switch and Christmas Prince crossover, the one second that I think matters more than any other of the 5759 others.

In this one second during Margaret’s coronation, as we see her walk down the aisle in the church, we see Queen Amber, King Richard (don’t worry, he still doesn’t show any emotion), and their daughter Elleri (whose birth was the center of the final film in the Christmas Prince trilogy and whose name I still don’t understand/like). Now, for a casual viewer, this may seem like no big deal, just a big streaming platform creating a shared universe for their original content. However, it is quite a big deal.

The moment of the egregious plot hole

In the first Princess Switch movie, Kevin and Margaret-as-Stacy watch The Christmas Prince as a cute, little sponsored bonding moment. So, if the main characters from that movie now appear in this one, what does it all mean? I originally thought that it might mean that The Christmas Prince is a documentary, at least in the movie universe. But the more I thought about it, the more my documentary reading didn’t make sense. There are many moments throughout The Christmas Prince in which the royal family tells Amber about the importance of discretion concerning what they are telling her and the entire second movie hinges on a conflict between Amber and Mrs. Averill on how Amber can no longer write in her blog because the royals have to maintain a specific image. If their privacy and image were such big concerns of theirs, why would they ever want a documentary film crew around them at all hours? It’s my firm belief that they would not open themselves up so much if they knew a film crew was documenting their every move. So, having ruled out the documentary option, there are no other plausible reasons how Richard and Amber can exist both as real people and movie characters. More questions open up from here: does Christmas Inheritance have a place in this universe? What about The Knight Before Christmas, which also stars Vanessa Hudgens? Is she another cousin? It’s all too confusing, which is the exact reason why Amber and Richard took their cameo scissors and cut a big hole in the fabric of the Netflix Christmas Movie Universe. Okay, so I’ve spent a majority of this article talking about all the problems I had with this movie. But were there any saving graces?

Yes! There weren’t a lot, but I do have to acknowledge the behind the scenes work that tends to go unappreciated. Christmas movies, especially Hallmark Christmas movies, are known for their horrible production values, lighting, makeup, and locations. However, I was thoroughly impressed with all of these aspects of the movie. The makeup and hair looked good unlike some other Netflix Christmas movies (I’m looking at you Christmas Prince) and the production value was very high. The sets were elaborate, undoubtedly very Christmas-y, and the extras all did a great job in those spaces. I still don’t think these aspects can save the rest of this messy movie, but it was nice to always have something pretty to look at. Overall, there was some good, but a lot of bad and ugly in Princess Switch 2. So, is it still worth a watch?

Like all of the other arguably “trashy” content I watch, I say 100% yes. Like I said in my article reviewing the notorious Cats screen adaptation, watching this content is an experience, a very enjoyable one at that. Yes, the characters were stupid and there was no tension, but those are the things that make for great escapism. Even if there were times where I was frustrated and bored, I overall had a great time watching this movie. I watched it with my mom who hadn’t seen the first and trying to explain the plot and who each Vanessa Hudgens was never failed to make me laugh. If we take these trashy movies for what they are — trashy movies, and don’t expect high art out of them, then we’ll have a good time making fun of every “Maggie Moo” and plot contrivance. It doesn’t even matter that Christmas has now come and gone — these movies are still amazing ways to give us a break from all the craziness in our lives and transport us into world where we know everything will be ok and the biggest problem is getting flour down from a high shelf even though you’re making hot chocolate. All in all, go and watch The Princess Switch 2. You’ll laugh, you probably won’t cry, and you’ll have a good time ripping it to shreds like I did.



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Sydney Weiner

A student publishing essays, short stories, and other pieces I’m currently writing. Come along for the ride