As Netflix continues to make its big push to become the new Hallmark, a slew of cookie-cutter Christmas movies have started appearing on the streaming network. “The Princess Switch” takes the well-worn tale of “The Prince And The Pauper” and dusts it with the seasonal covering of icing sugar in the form of a fictional European principality, a conveniently staged baking competition and a pair of star-crossed would-be lovers.
When Chicago baker Stacy De Novo (Vanessa Hudgens) is invited to compete in a prestigious baking competition in the small European kingdom of Belgravia, she reluctantly accepts at the urging of her sous chef Kevin (Nick Sagar) and his daughter Olivia (Alexa Adeosun). But when she arrives, she meets the Prince of Belgravia’s fiancée Lady Margaret (Vanessa Hudgens) and the two conspire to swap lives for a couple of days.
Hudgens makes for a likeable and impressively versatile lead, playing both the Lady Margaret and her down-to-earth counterpart with aplomb. The hairstyling and cut-glass English accent are surprisingly effective but it’s the actress’s innately charming performance which keeps the characters distinctive and yet credibly confusable. The other performances are just fine for this kind of fare although Mark Fleischmann deserves a special mention for his channelling of Tom Hollander in his turn as Frank, the Prince’s chauffeur.
A breezy, air-whipped concoction of Shakespeare and Twain, there’s a predictably cosy and familiar feel to “The Princess Switch” but its told with such an undemanding sweetness that you can just sink into it with a mug of cocoa and a box of chocolates and enjoy the sentimentality of it all.
True, some of the subplots feel underbaked such as Stacy’s bakery rival and, ironically, the baking competition itself and you’d got to admire the bravado of the metatextual moment when Stacy is watching her favourite Christmas movie, Netflix’s “A Christmas Prince” but those things don’t really matter because everything is being shepherded by the mysteriously omnipresent ‘Kindly Man’ (Robin Soans) who pops up whenever any of the characters need a nudge in the right direction, exactly the kind of deus ex magica you can get away with in holiday fluff.
It’s not going to win any awards or redefine the genre, but “The Princess Switch” is a delightfully sweet treat for the holidays.