Director: Mike Rohl
Writer: Robin Bernheim, Megan Metzger
Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Vanessa Hudgens, Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, Suanne Braun, Nick Sagar
Producer: Vanessa Hudgens, Amy Krell, Brad Krevoy, Steven R. McGlothen
Streaming Platform: Netflix
First, a tactical matter- what is the plural form of Vanessa Hudgens? I’m going with the clunky, hyphenated Vanessa Hudgens-es. There are three Vanessa Hudgens-es in The Princess Switch: Switched Again, one Vanessa Hudgens more than the film’s prequel The Princess Switch (2018).
The first is Stacey, a baker from Chicago who finds herself married to the Prince of Belgravia, a fictitious European town with an annual Christmas bake-off competition. Then is her close friend and lookalike, Margaret Delacourt, soon to take the throne of Montenaro, another fictitious European town. She has just parted ways with Kevin, Stacey’s best friend who is now back in Chicago with his daughter, mourning lost love in grey sweatpants, and un-trimmed facial hair. The third Hudgens is the evil cousin of Margaret, Fiona Pembroke, who is also bankrupt and wants to trade places for long enough to transfer some money to the Cayman Islands, a tax-exempt haven. (Subtext: tax and wax!) There is a thread of thought here that could be developed- of royalty and the archaic practice of kings and queens relegated to Europe, a continent that is still unable to shake off its centuries of dynasties that it shedded for democracy.
It’s a rom-com, but it’s also a glossy heist- the kind where details don’t matter. Add to the mix the Christmas backdrop and this movie makes for a triple threat.
Something is to be said about these movies and shows like Emily In Paris. A New Yorker piece last week called them “ambient television”, and the point is that they are not so densely packed with dialogue for you to follow it closely- they are spaced out with gazes and swoons and musical interludes to let you do other things while also watching. Much like how in Indian television the repeated-shock-close-ups was an addition to aid the housewives who would be moving between the television and the kitchen. But then what if you are watching it with close concentration, all distractions at bay? Speed it up 1.5x? That’s what I did, and shockingly I realized, after a point, the speeding up didn’t feel odd, because the characters here walk so damn slowly and enounce with the effort of a royal decree that speeding it up made it just feel… natural.
The conflict here is decidedly loose- you never feel like too much is at stake for your stomach to drop. This is the definition of comfort television, where even the conflicts are padded with comfort. The point is to feel giddy, and not necessarily earn the giddiness, so why wring the characters through hell and back? For example, I was quite interested in the frays between Margaret and her royal husband and how their love is tested by their busy lives, but it’s all patted down into a big-lumpy kiss and you forget you wanted to see conflict where none was meant to exist.