"Is love really supposed to take so much effort?"
Leaning heavily on the magic of the season, The Princess Switch: Switched Again successfully captures the original film's mystery and fun as it works hard to keep things light and airy amidst its backdrop of tradition and royalty.
Taking place two years after Stacy and Prince Edward's wedding, Switched Again sees Duchess Margaret as she prepares to take the throne of Montenaro. The unexpected inheritance sets in motion a series of events and emotions that lead her to split from her boyfriend (and Stacy's best friend) Kevin (Nick Sagar). But all parties are set to collide as everyone heads out to witness Margaret's coronation, bringing with it a world of possibilities as the newly crowned Princess Stacy of Belgravia is dead set on getting her friends back together.
Vanessa Hudgens returns, adding to her workload with Fiona, Duchess Margaret's ostracized cousin who yearns for the crown (and the financial security that comes with it). Though a bit forced, the film's triple trouble aspect gives it a much-needed pulse as we expand on the fictitious universe and bring forth a new set of problems that can arise when a pair decides to switch places for a short period of time.
Still, we don't get any additional information regarding Stacy and Margaret's backstory, nor is there any more explanation regarding their doppelgänger appearances. This, like many things within the film, is presented at face value, requiring viewers to bypass common curiosity and go along for the holiday adventure, no questions asked.
That said, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the film. Hudgens does surprisingly well transitioning between outfits and accents, taking her three roles in stride and seemingly having fun while doing it. Even with the original film's breakout success, I am not entirely sure what I was expecting; however, I found myself pleasantly surprised with the results here.
Providing little substance beyond its obvious gimmick, Switched Again fully embraces its premise, which is overly simple in both context and execution. Compliment it all with an unapologetically elementary conflict and resolution (Hudgens' run through the basement of a large estate is as lackluster as it is ridiculous), and you never question the film's eventual outcome. In truth, you are never uncertain of the steps required to get there.
I poke, prod, and laugh, but in reality, all of this is acceptable given the film's large scale purpose.
Effortlessly blending the joys of the holiday season with the tense, thematic elements of a family betrayal, The Princess Switch: Switched Again never attempts to be anything that it is not. Childlike innocence is the name of the game, and Hudgens and company deliver beautifully. Director Mike Rohl packs a heartfelt romance, a royal coronation, an unintentional triple switch, and a kidnapping into one luxurious snowball punch - and we feel all the emotions that come with such a journey.
The end result isn't anything revolutionary, but that isn't the point. Playing it safe throughout, the film works to maintain family-friendly status, utilizing the holiday spirit to generate good feels as it leans heavily on the classic holiday fair: snow, mistletoe, sweets, and love. As it almost always does, the formula works, making this a franchise that will likely become a staple for years to come.
*This film is streaming globally on Netflix.