Am I addicted to Christmas films? Have I watched so many terrible ones that at this point I’ve lost any sense of objectivity with regard to how awful they are – and now think every one of them deserves an Oscar and/or standing ovation? The answer to both of those questions is a resounding YES.
The Princess Switch is a gem of a film, a veritable smörgasbord of Christmas clichés and a showcase for Vanessa Hudgens’ questionable acting talent. I’m such a sucker for a Christmas film (as you can probably tell), even moreso for a terrible Christmas film, but this is so terrible it pushes the limits of my patience.
Vanessa Hudgens plays two characters (and, fingers crossed, gets two paychecks!) Stacy and Margaret, who, in a Parent-Trap style plot-device decide to, you guessed it, switch places and lead one another’s lives. This film can only be described as a bizarre hybrid of the aforementioned 1961/1998 classic and The Princess Diaries. Cue hijinks aplenty – the film has a checklist of things it duly ticks off: pale and moderately-threatening supporting characters, moral questioning and soul-searching, situations that are supposed to be hilarious but end up being awkward more than anything else, melodramatic love stories, and, less-conventionally, Hudgens’ botched attempt at an English accent.
“not that I would expect a Christmas film to push the envelope but hey ho-ho-ho”
Why, then, does it appear ever so slightly unsatisfying? First of all, the delivery and script appear to be compiled by somebody whose only experience of England is gleamed through watching archive footage of the Queen’s speech. Secondly, the plot is unbearably predictable (not that I would expect a Christmas film to push the envelope but hey ho-ho-ho). What I would additionally call out is the film’s remarkably heavy handedness about its cross-cultural plot, the only conclusion to be drawn from which is that Netflix have commissioned an intentionally terrible piece of film-making, designed to satirise the Hallmark movies of yore. Surely this is the case?
Amidst this mess – though Hudgens’s performance is sub-par – it nonetheless seems to take flight (perhaps as the result of comparison more than anything else). Margaret (as Stacy)’s ‘Prince’ appears to have the personality of a paving slab, while the plot devices – the convenient introduction of an object which causes her to reconsider everything, a large pair of glasses that function as an all-encompassing disguise – hide in plain sight. I hesitate to say anymore for risk of spoilers (this is a film that is admittedly quite difficult to spoil), but if you have seen a film before at soccommonwealthme point in your life, you might just be able to take a wild guess at where this story ends up. The Princess Switch is one of the worst films I have ever seen. And I don’t just say that because I’m slightly bitter about the fact that I, a film student, found the plot hard to follow at points. But then again, who wants to be a grump at Christmas?! Five stars.