Movie review: The Princess Switch: Switched Again
Every so often a film comes along that resets parameters for what film is.
Like this sequel to The Princess Switch, Netflix's 2018 rom-com riff on The Prince And The Pauper, with Vanessa Hudgens starring as both the "lowly" Chicago baker Stacy and her royal doppelganger Lady Margaret as they swop roles against the fictional fake snow-laden backdrop of Belgravia.
Like its predecessor, Switched Again - currently streaming on Netflix - is packed with many moments of nonsense (fully decorating a palace for Christmas in an afternoon) or downright weirdness.
Why does nobody point out the obvious issues with Stacy's platonic best friend Kevin (Nick Sagar) being in love with Margaret, given she looks exactly the same as Stacy?
Plus, there's that seemingly magical old man who makes a reappearance here. His identity was never explained in the first film, in a way that suggested the makers had forgotten to.
They've stuck with it here, and he's still not explained. Just a random old magic in-joke dude.
These films operate in an interesting area, both as easy watches for the gullibly romantic and as fodder for movie podcasts like How Did This Get Made? It's the movie equivalent of wearing a "kick me" sign.
Switched Again's plot involves a third form of Hudgens – this time an evil one named Fiona, the spendthrift influencer wannabe cousin of Margaret.
It should have been more of a fun romp, but the plot of kidnap and usurpation gets going only halfway in and fizzles soon after. You're more likely to spend more time and brain power in working out which Hudgens you're watching – Stacy as Margaret, Margaret as Stacy or Fiona as Stacy as Margaret.
But there is something fascinating about these films.
In the original instalment, our lead characters – much like people in the real world would – settled down to watch another Netflix festive franchise, A Christmas Prince (let's call it ACP). Fantastic advertising.
However, in the finale of Switched Again, the lead characters (plus baby) of ACP turn up. They exist in the Princess Switch world.
Which possibly means that in The Princess Switch world, ACP is a fly-on-the-wall documentary or like their version of The Crown. Adding to the web of instrigue, the kingdom in ACP – Aldovia – was mentioned in another Hudgens faux snow fest, The Knight Before Christmas.
This means we have what some are calling – and borrowing a term from the Marvel Cinematic Universe – the NCU: Netflix Christmas Universe.
This opens up the possibility for Hudgens to play four roles, three of which are vaguely distinguishable from the other.
Next Christmas can't arrive soon enough, as the promise of multiple Hudgens takes us towards a potential Yuletide Endgame.