The Princess Switch: Switched Again has its charms, mostly in the form of a game Vanessa Hudgens, but there’s little to like in this contrived return to royalty.
In The Princess Switch, there’s a scene in which Vanessa Hudgens’ impulsive Duchess Margaret sits down with her love interest, Kevin (Nick Sagar), to watch a movie. They scroll through Netflix and quickly settle on A Christmas Prince, the beginning of the streaming giant’s seasonal trend of Hallmark-alike holiday movies – an esteemed category that The Princess Switch itself very much belonged to. It was a brazen and shameless bit of self-promotion, but when you think how far Netflix has come in just the two years since that moment, it seems likably quaint. Today saw the release of The Princess Switch: Switched Again, a largely inferior sequel that feels very much like a throwaway stocking filler in a bustling holiday season line-up. It’s better than a lump of coal, but only just.
From the title, you can predict basically the entire plot. Hudgens triples up for this sophomore outing, playing both Lady Margaret and humble baker-turned-princess Stacy, and also a new relative who wants to get in on the lookalike action. But that addition is largely superfluous to the main plot, which is a classic romance as Margaret and Kevin, recently separated, figure out in the most roundabout way possible that they were just right for each other after all.
To recap, at the end of The Princess Switch, Stacy had married her literal Prince Charming, Edward (Sam Palladio), and Margaret had shacked up with Kevin and his daughter, Olivia (Alexa Adeosun). Between films, the King of Montenaro died, leaving Margaret next in line for the throne. That responsibility, combined with the interference of a new suitor, Antonio (Lachlan Nieboer), has kept Margaret and Kevin from reconciling, but now’s the time to get everything straightened out ready for Christmas.
Virtually every plot beat, especially once the third Hudgens turns up and is quickly established as a grifter, is easy to see coming. The palatial production design is elaborate but unimaginative. The romance is cute, and the comedy is mostly worth a chuckle. But everything feels slightly less gilded than it did in the first film; some of the sheen has worn away from the premise and the characters, giving a second-hand feel only exacerbated by the predictability of the narrative. You’ve seen it all before, and you’ll probably see plenty more of it on Netflix over the coming weeks.
Hudgens, though, remains a real bright spot, bringing a lot of energy in her three distinct personas, cycling through accents and fashion at moment’s notice and keeping each character distinct, even in those moments when they’re impersonating each other. The new arrival, Fiona, brings a decent helping of ridiculous energy to proceedings and gives Hudgens a lot more to play, even if it isn’t quite enough to offset how rote everything else feels.
A lot of what I liked about the first film was found in a cleverer script by Robin Bernheim and Megan Metzger than it was given credit for; it made literal royals hapless and charming, which is quite a feat. That writing pair returns for The Princess Switch: Switched Again, and Mike Rohl is once again in the director’s chair, but with the introductions established and the characters bedded in, there’s little pleasure to be found in the writing this time around. Rather than deepen the established characters, we instead get a reiteration of the two parallel love stories from the original; the context of their relationships might have changed, but the central foursome hasn’t. Like, at all.
This is why Fiona brings such welcome energy to the film, and why it’s such a shame that she doesn’t get more to do. Hudgens always felt on the cusp of some truly ridiculous mania with that character, but she got short shrift to make room for inoffensive though tedious romance. I hope the inevitable sequel introduces some more of the family tree, and they’re increasingly eccentric. You know what you’re getting with these movies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t want a bit more.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.