When High School Musical 2 first came out, I vividly remember the moment I found out that Vanessa Hudgens was half-Filipino and ran up to my mother, almost beaming. It was the first moment I saw someone who looked exactly like me in popular American culture.
The moment I heard that Vanessa Hudgens was going to be starring in a Christmas special–in a similar fashion to last year’s A Christmas Prince–I was ecstatic to see my role model growing up in my favorite film genre that is holiday romantic comedies.
The Princess Switch is your classic Princess and the Pauper storyline but with a modern twist. Stacy DeNovo (Vanessa Hudgens) is a talented Chicago baker whose cakes and pastries are revered by everyone from elderly women to city hall officials. Right from the start, we are introduced to a focused, organized and “not good at spontaneous,” Stacy who flutters between customers, decorating an intricate topped reindeer cake. All the while her handsome sous chef and long time friend, Kevin Richards (Nick Sagar) watches over her from the back.
Enter: Olivia who is Kevin’s daughter and Stacy’s goddaughter coming into the bakery after-school, asking Stacy for a sugar cookie and also hinting at a surprise for her. She’s seen immediately begging her father to whether or not they can already tell Stacy the surprise they had in store for her: an all-expense paid trip to Belgravia (a fictional European country) for a Christmas baking competition with the best pastry chefs from all over the world.
Kevin and Olivia decided to enter Stacy into the contest to cheer Stacy up after her recent break-up with Paul, her ex-boyfriend of three years.
“We can’t just close up shop for Christmas,” Stacy protests after first hearing about the surprise. She initially dismisses the invitation but after an uncomfortable run-in with her ex and his new girlfriend, Stacy eventually decides to go to Belgravia. Another push was her remembering the mysterious man whose only advice was, “Christmas wishes have been known to come true.”
While prepping for the contest, Stacy runs into Lady Margaret Delacour, Duchess of Montenero, who is to wed the Prince Edward of Belgravia that upcoming New Year’s Day. Coincidentally, the Duchess looks exactly like Stacy, albeit with a questionable British accent and a shorter haircut. The Duchess then invites her to the palace to talk about her wedding cake but later, in a private meeting she asks for a favor: to switch places with her for two days.
“No one would even notice.”
Margaret’s fiancé, the Prince who she agreed to marry out of duty to her parents, leaves town to meet with a Spanish Ambassador. On Stacy’s end–her schedule consists of going sightseeing with Kevin and Olivia.
With that, they agree to do the switch…but only after: a funny little montage set to a pop Christmas song where they exchange details of each other’s personal lives, and practice each other’s walks and their accents. Once they’re all ready and confident in their disguises, they go their own separate ways, and into each other’s lives.
In the end, in true romantic comedy fashion: they both fall in love, find conflicts in those loves, and find a way to make it work. While some might find predictability boring, there is something so comforting about predictability in films about love.
To those anonymous romantics among us, rom-coms give us hope that we, too, can find love right around the corner.
No one wants surprises that’ll end in tears just for an outside audience to enjoy. We want our love lives to be easy. Maybe there’ll be some light misunderstandings or coincidences but in the end, we want to have that same, almost magical moment of realization where the person you love also loves you back. Despite all the twists and turns, our happy ending will only be the beginning of an everlasting love. Romantic comedies are the cinematic forms of wish-fulfillment, a fantasy that we all want to escape to sooner or later.
The Princess Switch isn’t a film that redefines the genre but it fully embraces the love, joy, laughter, and hope you wish to find in your relationships, whether it be familial, romantic or platonic. There’s something comforting about predictable films, something like a hug from an old friend or the glow of lights around the holiday season. The Princess Switch is best enjoyed with some friends and family and laughter over the most recycled romantic moments.
The Princess Switch can now be streamed on Netflix.
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Christmas/Holiday Films
Runtime: 101 minutes
Directed by: Mike Rohl
Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, Nick Sagar