’Tis the season for sugar-cookie feasting, family feuds, frostbite and, of course, romantic holiday flicks. Would it really be the most wonderful time of the year without these old-reliable, quintessential hallmark-esque gems? Sure, the classics are great, but there is something especially comforting in settling in for an hour and a half to witness the magic of an unrealistic yet pure love story unfolding right before your eyes. Though underwhelming in originality, riddled with cringe-worthy, PG-rated romantic tension and oozing with Christmas spirit, “The Princess Switch” is unexpectedly charming and ultimately successful in warming our hearts.
With Christmas fast approaching, hardworking, talented and no-nonsense baker Stacy (Vanessa Hudgens, “High School Musical”) has business on her mind. However, when her handsome, easy-going best pal Kevin (Nick Sagar, “Ill Manors”) reveals that she has been accepted into a prestigious baking competition, which he secretly entered her into months before, Stacy’s holiday plans take an unanticipated toll. Persuaded by Kevin and his charismatic and uber-cute daughter Olivia, played by newcomer Alexa Adeosun, Stacy soon finds herself en route from Chicago to the royal kingdom of Belgravia to put her cooking skills on display. Shortly after her arrival, Stacy finds herself face to face with yet another surprise: Margaret (also played by Vanessa Hudgens), the Duchess of Montenaro and her literal double. When Margaret, eager for a taste of the world as a commoner before she weds the Prince of Belgravia, asks Stacy to swap lives for two days, Stacy hesitantly agrees. However, as is expected, love gets in the way of the girls’ plan and things become, well, complicated.
“The Princess Switch” can be best described as “The Holiday” meets “Monte Carlo,” a mashup that we probably didn’t need an entire movie to picture, but is enjoyable nonetheless. An undeniably “seasonal” film, much of its charm would arguably be subdued were it to be re-watched in August. The movie’s greatest shortcoming, however, is that instead of developing the chemistry between the characters onscreen, director Mike Rohl (“Kyle XY”) crosses his fingers that the age-old wonder of the fast-track-romance-with-a-stranger plotline will be enough to make the budding romances believable.
At its very core, “The Princess Switch” is completely and totally wholesome, a movie that should be accompanied by a mug of marshmallow-laden, whipped-cream-topped hot chocolate and a platter of gingerbread cookies. While both protagonists are incredibly cookie-cutter, with Margaret tied down by duty and seeking adventure and freedom, and Stacy, who is uptight, goal-oriented and detests surprises for some reason, we don’t seem to mind. Whether it’s the mouthwatering displays of immaculately fashioned cakes and pastries, courtesy of the scenes used to exemplify Stacy’s superb baking skills, or the cheesy horseback-riding and Christmas-shopping dates, there is something about the film that allows us to ignore its flaws and bask in the gleeful combination of happily-ever-after and season’s greetings.
With an open mind, managed expectations and a bit of Christmas spirit — instead of analyzing the seen-it-before, fairytale plotline and Stacy and Margaret’s respective one-dimensional male suitors — we can focus instead on Vanessa Hudgens’s impeccable glow and allow ourselves to slip into the holiday mood. If you don’t feel quite hyped enough for the upcoming winter festivities or just need a little pre-finals season pick me up, this will likely do the trick.