Ever get déjà vu? It seems that The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again has been lived before. Once again, Netflix pumps out yet another terrible Christmas romcom that gets everyone – well, me – excited to see Vanessa Hudgens long after her High School Musical days. Ever get déjà vu? It seems that The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again plays with that classic Shakespearean trope of getting Vanessa Hudgens to play two versions of herself that only differ by her awful English accent and an ungodly amount of hairspray. Ever get déjà vu? Maybe this joke is getting as old as those in the Princess Switch 2: Switched Again.
The Switched Again: Princess Switch 2 has a rather simple storyline: Stacy (played by Vanessa Hudgens) has returned to help Margaret (played by Vanessa Hudgens) fall in love with the true love of her life Kevin (Nick Sagar) but a spanner is thrown into the works when Fiona (played by Vanessa Hudgens) turns up to play the switch. But little does Fiona know, Stacy and Margaret are playing the switch also. To explain any other plot point would be useless, as this film has no plot: the ending’s obvious from the very beginning. We all know how every Christmas romcom ends up. And so The Princess Switch 2: Again Switched prides itself on this absolutely concrete concept “What if there were two Vanessa Hudgenses?”, in an attempt to create any hint of a plot in that oh so Shakespearean way. But Of course, as a Christmas film, you’d expect everything to culminate on Christmas Day yet within these Christmas vibes lies the existential crisis of the Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe.
The same music of our world exists in the world of Princess The Switch: Again 2 Switched. It is our world, but it is not our world. Kelly Clarkson’s Underneath the Tree exists in this world – how they managed to get the rights to the song, one can only imagine – along with children choirs singing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Christian marital customs, but then there are countries like Belgravia or Aldovia from ‘A Christmas Prince’ fame, ruled by some random unknown royal family, idealised in that typically American way. Just like Netflix’ other crap Christmas films, the monarchy can never be at fault, because they are perfect human beings who are just normal – despite their royal upbringings – and it is simply their wicked advisors who turn them astray, such as Antonio (Lachlan Nieboer). Monarchy is inherently blessed and benevolent in such holiday romcom writing – simply look at ‘A Christmas Prince 2’. But this film still feels uneasy: you could think it’s the cheesiness – Margaret’s and Kevin’s marriage happens on the night of Christmas Eve and there’s a perfect floral arch in the airport and the happy couple just so happen to stand under the mistletoe hung on that arch – but instead, it’s the artificially enforced love tropes and social messages, along with that problematic portrayal of the monarchy.
The only reason we can relate to these members of the royal family is that these royals are flawed, but not too flawed. They’re only flawed inasmuch as any audience can accept them to be and as much as the plot will allow: Fiona must be jealous of her cousin; Margaret must be trying her absolute best to serve the people of Montenaro (in order to justify any sort of absolute monarchy in this day and age) but lack self-belief – a common trope for the female protagonist. The moral of the story is “you just need to believe in yourself!”. So relatable, if only they weren’t royals and can afford to bother themselves with such superficial flaws designed only to fill the void that is the plot. Indeed, the enforced female empowerment and dated stereotypes are alarming: every royal speaks with the crustiest of RP English accents even if they hail from continental Europe; Margaret has to show that she has changed by demonstrating her ability to take on new responsibilities as queen of Montenaro – WOOO GIRL BOSS – and defying Antonio’s claim that a woman needs direction from a man and ordering him to be taken to the dungeon, but not really suffering any sort of adversity besides the possibility that Kevin might leave her (but you knew from the very beginning they would end up together again).
There are plenty of faults with The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again: the plot, the acting, the flagrant allusions to other films of the Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe, the stereotyping tropes, the jokes that only a ten-year-old would find funny, the overt reliance on that naff gimmick. But equally, I can’t help myself from absolutely loving this film. It hits that sweet spot of so bad it’s good, where you indulge in all the tropes because they are what you have been expecting in this movie from the very beginning. Plot means nothing in crappy holiday romcoms, where all you want is “that feeling of a happy Christmas for once”. There’s enough of that here: snow, green and gold and red, love’s happy ending. The existential crisis of these holiday romcoms then is this: in a universe that is our own but also not our own, you can find love on Christmas day where everybody is wrapped up in the singular sensation of the holidays; meanwhile, as for me, I’ll be stuck at home arguing over the roast potatoes and Monopoly, dreaming about the fact that if only things were a little different, I would spend Christmas falling in love with The One.
A hug from the Ghost of Christmas Present from the Muppets Christmas Carol/10
Illustration by Thang Tu.