Yes, that is Vanessa Hudgens playing doppelgängersNetflix

Once the Halloween costumes have been put away and Cindies has finally added “All I want for Christmas is you” to its Wednesday playlist, there are few things more pleasurable than sitting down of an evening to enjoy a classic Christmas film on Netflix, perhaps with a smutty smattering of Christmas chill – we mean – cheer. Fortunately, Netflix has delivered The Princess Switch, a wonderfully stodgy slice of festive preposterousness that, in an act of cinematic genius, brings together life-swapping, princes and princesses, magic, baking and, of course, enough fake snow to sink the Titanic.

Here’s the premise: Chicago baker Stacey (Vanessa Hudgens), an obsessive follower of self-prescribed time-tables and plans, is persuaded to spontaneously enter a baking competition in the kingdom of Belgravia by her best friend Kevin (Nick Sagar) – a single father who, despite working in Stacey’s bakery, casually sports a perfectly sculpted eight-pack.

Watching The Princess Switch was like wrapping yourself in an old blanket

Arriving in Belgravia, Stacey is accosted by her doppelgänger, Margaret, who is also the Duchess of Montenaro (also played by Hudgens) and set to marry the prince of Belgravia, Edward (Sam Palladio). Margaret sees an opportunity in Stacey’s arrival: she can live like a normal person for a few days while Stacey lounges around the royal palace petting corgis, ordering servants about, riding horses and doing whatever else the idle rich get up to. And so the stage is set for a wondrous Christmas tale.

But doesn’t this all seem a little a familiar? We were scratching our heads as the film progressed, trying desperately to recall what this premise reminded us of, until it suddenly occurred to us: we were watching a cross between The Parent Trap (the life-swap!), The Princess Diaries (Genovia? Belgravia? Sound familiar?) and The Great British Bake Off.

The real Christmas magic is our suspended disbeliefNetflix

Of course, we don’t expect our readers to be familiar with these artefacts of another age, the memory of which has no doubt been shamefully lost to all but the most cultish devotees of nineties and noughties culture. But, at least for us, watching The Princess Switch was like wrapping yourself in an old blanket, with its cutesy smorgasbord of cultural references lulling us into the most comfortable and unoriginal ride of our lives.

Like so many made-for-Netflix movies of late, The Princess Switch follows a carefully constructed formula to gain clicks and get trending. But the machine in the Netflix basement – no doubt being fed the old VHS tapes and DVDs from landfills across the world – that churns out such delights needs a little help in this particular case. The film gracefully leaps over even the most dangerous of plot holes and the most glaring inconsistencies with the character of Mister Whiskers (as named by us), who always appears at just the right time to move the story along, accompanied by twinkly music and uncomfortably long shots of his smile.

Mister Whiskers has a special power: he is capable of summoning Christmas Magic at the drop of a hat. Perhaps the viewer is meant to assume he’s Santa Claus, or maybe a reformed Scrooge, but we’d rather imagine he is the embodiment of the spirit of a golden retriever with reindeer antler deely-boppers. It’s like every question in the script-writing room was answered with “whatever, sprinkle some Christmas Magic!” How will we make sure the switching plot is revealed? Christmas Magic. How will we get the meticulous over-planner Stacey to Belgravia in the first place? Christmas Magic. How will I get above a 60 in my next essay? Christmas Magic.


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The real Christmas Magic, though, is Vanessa Hudgens’ performance. As fans of High School Musical (and who isn’t!?) will attest, Hudgens’ bubbliness and joyfulness lights up everything around her – which, given the wooden acting of some of her co-stars, is lucky. Even Vanessa Hudgens’ appalling English accent – think if Dick Van Dyke had tried to imitate The Queen/The Average Student at St John’s, and you’ll be in the right ballpark – doesn’t mar things too much, with Hudgens taking delight in switching from American to English to an American pretending to be English (the most convincing of the lot).

As Kevin puts it, “there’s nothin’ like a happy ending to make someone cry”, and that is of course the case for The Princess Switch. Like any self-respecting students, we were blubbering into this PG Netflix movie on a Saturday night, and it was at that point that we realised: the magic of this film isn’t in the fake snow, the heart-warming love stories or the adorable and quick-witted Liv, it’s in the fact that even though we know that we’re watching 100 minutes of saccharine, recycled drivel, we’re letting go of expectations and enjoying every second. Our Christmas gift to you is this advice: let go of your inhibitions and allow yourself to love a little.

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