So honestly, I’ve been meaning to watch Roma for a week or so, and haven’t gotten round to it for reasons I myself don’t fully know. Maybe it’s because I watch enough brilliant and intellectually challenging films for university, maybe it’s because I don’t have the energy this time of year, I don’t know. But somehow, in bed the other night, I ended up forgoing Roma for The Princess Switch, a Hallmark-esque Netflix Original starring Vanessa Hudgens and offering absolutely nothing new.
A classic Princess and the Pauper style story, Hudgens plays both Stacey, a Chicago baker too uptight for her own good, and Margaret, a Duchess set to marry the arrogant Prince Edward, who she doesn’t particularly like, let alone love. When they run into each other in the fictional country of Belgravia during a baking competition Stacey is taking part in, they realize their crazy resemblance to one another and the spontaneous Margaret decides they should swap places for a couple days. Inevitably, each woman falls in love with the other’s disinterested man (in Margaret’s case, Stacey’s old friend Kevin), and zany antics ensue. This synopsis is already far longer than most that I write, and it still feels as though I’ve left out some crucial details – the convoluted twists and turns and explanations in The Princess Switch are absolutely bizarre at points, and mostly unwarranted.
But at least Hudgens is charming as ever. Though I was never really a High School Musical kid, I do appreciate how multi-talented and charismatic both Efron and Hudgens have proven themselves to be, and her warmth does help to elevate the movie as a whole. She does a surprisingly good job switching between the two characters, as well as pretending to be one being the other, and has a good chemistry with both leading men. Though I appreciate that Sam Palladio’s Prince Edward had some development as a character, aided by his Colin Firthy performance, I did find myself wishing that the film had gone in a little harder on the royals; it’s 2018, and whilst I like escapist entertainment as much as the next person, I did find it aggravating that director Mike Rohl seems so enamored with the monarchy.
Undoubtedly, the main thing this movie has going for it is production design. From the Pinterest interiors of the cabin Stacey is staying in to the snow-covered markets of Belgravia and her adorable bakery from the start, most of The Princess Switch resembles one of the protagonist’s baked creations. Most Hallmark Christmas movies neglect this element of filmmaking, instead relying on attractive leads and a lack of conflict to wrap the reader in a soft blanket, so I respect the effort that went into making this film so damn appealing.
If you’ve already made your mind up on The Princess Switch, I doubt this review will swing you to the other side of the argument. So my closing statement is simply that it kept me entertained, and that don’t worry, I promise I’ll watch Roma soon.