2020 has been a hard, weird, stressful year. There hasn’t been a lot to look forward to, as it seems like the future has been cancelled. But one thing we can count on is that Netflix will barf out a bunch of Christmas movie nonsense and people like me will watch it. It seems as though they’ve chosen Vanessa Hudgens as their golden gal of high quality visual, low quality movies. Last year, she did the ridiculously premised Knight Before Christmas which I wrote about, and this year I treated myself to the sequel to The Princess Switch titled, The Princess Switch: Switched Again.
Friends, I am unwell after having been exposed to this film. It’s a mess. Let’s take a journey.
In the first movie, Chicago Vanessa, her friend/business partner Kevin, and his young daughter travel to vaguely British colony Belgravia to participate in a baking competition. The baking plot line does not make an appearance in part two. I must pause here to ask, what’s going on in these made up countries? Where are they located? What’s their largest economic export? They’re ruled by a monarchy, but in Switched Again, there’s a prime minister, so that means they have some sort of representative democracy. I need answers.
There we meet Duchess Vanessa from Montanero, who is supposed to marry Prince Boring Face from Belgravia, but she wants to know what it’s like to be a normal girl. She actually says these words which…requires a separate blog. Chicago Vanessa and Duchess Vanessa quite literally run into each other and, wouldn’t you know it, they look exactly the same. So, obviously they should switch places for a few days.
Somehow they both perfect one another’s accents and mannerisms so well that everyone who knows them is completely hosed by this charade. In the switcheroosky, Duchess Vanessa falls in love with Kevin, and Chicago Vanessa falls in love with Prince Boring Face, and they have to confess this scheme after Kevin’s precocious kid figures it out. The men are TOTALLY okay with being lied to, and they all live happily ever after.
And this is where my problem with the entire premise rests. I hate stories where relationships are predicated on lies, and this plot device gets so much worse in the sequel. Which leads me to my general thesis: Someone needs to save the men from this movie.
In the opening scene of The Princess Switch: Gaslight Your Partners, now-princess Chicago Vanessa is in bed having a chat with Prince Boring Face. She’s gotten word that Duchess Vanessa is about to be coronated Queen of Montanero. Recently, Duchess Vanessa and Kevin broke up, which is painfully explained in dialogue. Chicago Vanessa insists she hatch a scheme to try and get the Duchess and Kevin back together. Prince Boring Face is like, “Yeah, cool, but maybe we can, you know, spend some quality time together.” And she’s like, “Gross I’m busy meddling in my friends’ relationship.”
Red Flag Number 1: This man is asking for his wife’s affection and she rejects him so hard I actually felt feelings for him. I got big Prince Charles vibes out of this dude.
On route to Montanero, Princess Vanessa takes a detour to Chicago while Prince Boring Face goes to London, some travel logistics I would like spelled out for me. I’m assuming the writers couldn’t figure out how to work the Prince into this scene and not take the spotlight away from Chicago Vanessa, so they removed him from it entirely. Now, I know this is a movie, and you can take liberties, but these are heads of state and there is never any security around them.
Here, we reunite with Kevin, who is managing a beautiful bakery and has had a serious glow-up. He seems to be doing great aside from wearing his sweatpants to work. Chicago Vanessa insists he come to the coronation “as a friend” and he literally turns into the kombucha girl.
Kevin agrees to leave his business and take a last minute flight to Montanero, which is a thing people can do in these movies. Chicago Vanessa’s intercession is done without Duchess Vanessa’s knowledge, which is a really shitty thing to do. What if DV rejected Kevin on the spot and he was just stuck there in a foreign country? Now that’s a movie I would watch.
It takes 2.3 seconds and a flour fight (which they left for the help to clean up) and DV and Kevin are reigniting feelings. But, of course, there’s still an hour remaining in this movie, so they can’t talk about their complicated emotions. I realized at that moment Kevin is like a contestant on the Bachelor who is expected to move to Iowa to be with a mediocre man they won in a contest. What about Kevin’s bakery? Is he just supposed to move his daughter to this country? Where will she go to school? Does this child have a mom? What are his official duties as Mr. Duchess of Montanero?
Red flag #2: Duchess Vanessa assumes Kevin will give up his life for her, uproot his family, and they never have a conversation about this.
Because this is a loosely laced together romance, enter a third man, Antonio, who is Duchess Vanessa’s chief of staff. For reasons that are unclear, they have a history From University, and he’s got the hots for her, despite the fact that she appears to have zero interest in him.
Red Flag #3: Antonio is a staff member and that’s a huge power imbalance that nobody would tolerate if the roles were reversed and this character was a woman in the same position.
They’re having an intimate conversation when Chicago Vanessa plunders in and drops a crate of decorations. They don’t see her walk halfway into the room before she’s overcome by gravity, which is a real struggle for women in these movies. She again urges Duchess Vanessa to get back together with Kevin, and DV is all like, “I’m busy with future queen stuff,” and CV is like, “You have to, because I don’t have a personality if not for inserting myself in your relationship.”
Red Flag #4: The Vanessas are in a codependent, toxic friendship.
Flash forward to a party, because royal balls are necessary plot conveniences, and CV has convinced Kevin to gussy up and dance with his love. Listen, he looks handsome. And I am angry on his behalf. Kevin deserves a nice woman from Chicago who can help him raise his daughter, not whatever this is. Justice for Kevin.
They dance in choreography that somehow everyone including Kevin knows, and that has no impact on the plot whatsoever. Just then, there’s a music cue and in comes Fiona, a cousin, who, and you’re not going to believe this, also looks exactly like CV and DV except she’s blonde and evil. Vanessa Hudgens is clearly having a good time in this role, and I am into it. Guys, Fiona is a villain, and we know that because she’s dressed like Bad Janet.
Bad Blonde Vanessa has fallen on some hard times and she and her entourage (honestly, best characters in this movie; I want a whole movie just about them) steal a bunch of stuff, then return to their lair and discuss how to up their score. This will obviously come into play later, when they triple switch.
It’s Christmas Eve eve now, because there are no other important dates that exist, and Duchess Vanessa wants some time with Kevin, but she’s “so busy” with royal demands that occur off-screen she can’t get away. And that leads Chicago Vanessa, a princess with absolutely nothing else to do but vacation in this fake country, comes up with a brilliant plan. They should switch again so Duchess Vanessa can abscond with Kevin while Chicago Vanessa sits in her place at the children’s choir performance. Honestly, win for DV for getting out of that event. They recruit Kevin’s kid into this plan because they need someone who will provide an alibi.
So. Okay. There’s absolutely no reason to do this, but remember, this movie hinges entirely on lies. It’s time to do some math here. This only works because Kevin is a separate entity staying in his own room. Chicago Vanessa (married to Prince Boring Face) is going to pretend to be the future queen, who is pretending to be her. At some point, fake Chicago Vanessa is going to intersect with Prince Boring Face and, I dunno, he may want to show her affection or something, which is a real dicey situation. And they’re not going to tell him they switched because, reasons. WHY WOULD SHE DO THIS TO HER OWN HUSBAND? This plan is so deeply flawed and cruel I need a flow chart, a stiff drink, and a nap.
The morning of The Big Plan, Prince Boring Face is eating breakfast alone at an enormous table, which is very sad, when precocious kid comes in and says Chicago Vanessa will not be joining him because she has a headache. Prince Boring Face is rightfully suspicious, and he’s got to be certain his wife is cheating on him. I genuinely felt bad for this guy. He’s in a loveless marriage with someone who’s so obsessed with her friends’ romance she ignores him completely and treats him like crap, and he has to take orders from a child. Justice for Boring Face.
Red Flag #5: Chicago Vanessa is in a marriage of convenience, and she’s taking advantage of her husband’s wealth and status.
Meanwhile, because the writers of this movie wanted to make this plot ten times more complicated, Bad Blonde Vanessa is concocting a plan with her minions on how to be Duchess Vanessa. There’s a hair cutting and dyeing montage and they decide to go to the concert to kidnap Duchess Vanessa, who is really Chicago Vanessa, to steal the royal jewels and get themselves a huge payday, then bounce to the Caymans.
Confused yet? I was! This is such an odd departure with the whole kidnapping subplot. It changes the tone of the movie in a way that skews into horror thriller. Do they have an exit strategy? Are they just going to let real (fake) Duchess Vanessa go and expect her not to call the Montanero equivalent of the FBI? Solid plan.
Red Flag #6: Kidnapping is a crime, actually. Especially when it’s a head of state.
Duchess Vanessa, masquerading as Chicago Vanessa, runs off with Kevin to a closed Santa’s workshop carnival (?) and has a great time. They’re building monstrous snowmen out of a dusting of snow on the ground, they’re flirting, and they have a heart to heart about their feelings and decide they must be together. Easy sleazy.
At the same time, Chicago Vanessa, masquerading as Duchess Vanessa, has a heart to heart with Prince Boring Face about his disintegrating marriage. Now, if my husband talked that candidly about me, to me, thinking it wasn’t me, I’d need some serious therapy. And at no point does this woman break character and say, “I didn’t know you felt this way, you are much more important to me than preserving this bullshit scheme.” Also, Duchess Vanessa has been “so busy,” she can’t get away with Kevin, but her imposter is just sitting next to a fireplace being contemplative for half a day. I should add, PBF has not gone to his own bedroom to discover his wife is not there, which bothers me on a cellular level.
Red Flag #7: If your wife continues to pretend to be someone else while she’s listening to you pour your heart out about your pain, it’s time to get divorced.
Later, Bad Blonde Vanessa and crew roll up to this royal event at which there is no security. Not even one inept guard they can trick. Bad minion spills a drink on fake Duchess Vanessa and other bad minion takes her to the bathroom to help her clean up. Even this public restroom is decorated for Christmas, which is kind of a lot to take in visually, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much bacteria was on it. Again, no security, no handlers, no assistants, just a head of state and some rando in public a bathroom. Okay. Then, Bad Blonde Vanessa sneaks up behind fake Duchess Vanessa and chloroforms her.
Important note: Chloroform takes a really long time to go into effect and does not work this way. Thank you for your consideration.
They somehow manage to switch these two characters’ clothing while fake Duchess Vanessa is passed out cold. Which is definitely assault. Besides that, Bad Vanessa was wearing a tight-fitting body con dress WITH SLEEVES that they would have to put on an unconscious person. Then they’d have to move said unconscious person from the bathroom and into a car. Again, no security, and no one is inclined to call an ambulance for this person. Here’s another problem: They only know Bad Blonde Vanessa as a blonde, so even watching her be hobbled out presumably drunk and looking exactly like the future queen should’ve triggered a reaction from someone. Crack team you got there, Vanessa, real, fake, and otherwise.
The baddies stash fake Duchess Vanessa in a wine cellar and lock the door. Bad Blonde Vanessa easily gets back to the palace and salivates over the jewelry. Lovestruck fake Chicago Vanessa comes back and is ready to switch and be herself! But alas, Bad Blonde Vanessa says, “Nope, I’ve decided that stealing is not enough. I want to be queen. Now get the hell out of my chambers.”
Fake Chicago Vanessa runs to seek the aid of Prince Boring Face. He’s all, “Glad you feel better,” and she’s like, “Oh no, it’s about to get much worse for you,” and confesses that not only is she not his wife, no one knows where his wife is. All so real Duchess Vanessa could have a dry, chaste kiss with a guy who needs to be in a different movie. The fact that PBF didn’t say, “You know what, f*$% all of you, I’m going home and contacting my attorney,“ is a real missed opportunity.
Red Flag #8: If someone is lying to you about something this big, chances are they are lying to you about a whole lot of smaller things too.
Because PBF is a stoic aristocrat, he does not react at all to this information, or get angry about how he was most definitely speaking to his own wife about their relationship problems. The two figure out the kidnapping plot rather quickly, and decide they must all go to where they think Bad Blonde Vanessa took Chicago Vanessa. Leaving Bad Blonde Vanessa behind. In the house. Unattended. With plans to move the coronation to tonight so she can be queen. Quick call to the police would’ve ended that, but no one ever contacts law enforcement in these movies or the plot wouldn’t continue.
Red Flag #9: When your story relies this much on plot devices and ex machinas, you need to seriously reexamine it. Explain it to yourself out loud. Make it make sense. Good thing Vanessa Hudgens has all that sweet Netflix money and they know people like me will still watch these movies. Perhaps I should do some self-reflection.
Chicago Vanessa saves herself from the wine cellar—because she don’t need no man—and runs out of the house just as the ragtag crew arrives to rescue her. Excellent timing. Again, no police necessary. Prince Boring Face, in his one act of marginal heroism, punches bad minion out. Hooray.
Back at the ranch, Bad Blonde Vanessa tells Kevin it’s over, because he’s an obstacle and the power has gone to her head. Kevin buys a last minute flight—direct to Chicago, a Christmas miracle—and gets out of there. Good for you, Kevin.
Remember Antonio, who has been largely absent from the second act? Well he smells a rat and figures out Bad Blonde Vanessa is an imposter, and because he’s a man scorned, he offers to team up with her to do more crimes.
Red Flag #10: Antonio is a classic “nice guy” and needs to be fired into the sun.
Bad Blonde Vanessa shows up to the church to be coronated, which befuddles the priest involved, and would likely disrupt his services. Sir, you’re in a mess of a movie, and I’m so sorry. Justice for the priest.
To make it official, the Prime Minister arrives, and she looks like Hillary Rodham Clinton, and I couldn’t unsee it. Bad Vanessa is about to become queen when our heroes burst in and stop the process. Antonio commands they be arrested for fakery and treason. People, I am begging you to look up what this word means.
The guards (gasp, law enforcement!) do not listen to Duchess Vanessa, but for some reason stand down at the demands of Chicago Vanessa with the American accent. Antonio is sent to the dungeon because this is now a period piece. Duchess Vanessa says, “Girl, I’m queen,” and Bad Blonde Vanessa is like, “Aw sorry dude, I’ve had a rough childhood, go easy on pressing charges.” Prince Boring Face does not demand she is arrested for assault, kidnapping, and fraud. And honestly, who would listen to him if he did?
Duchess Vanessa is told that Kevin is at the airport and then we have to have a “stop them before they get on the plane” moment so she can get her man. Again, no security in this Akron-Canton sized airport in a country where 9/11 has not happened. People gather around to watch, because there are sixteen citizens in this town and they all work at Christmas-themed retail locations. DV says, “My cousin lied,” and Kevin’s like, “Actually, I need to protect my daughter from all of your dishonesty. You are really hurting me.” Hahahahaha, just kidding he’s like, “Oh, no worries, man, stuff happens.”
Red Flag #11: These women are manipulating these men. They don’t deserve to be treated like this, even when you’re attempting #feminism.
She proposes to him, because this is a girl-power movie, and he says yes. Conveniently, there’s a priest right there getting coffee, minding his own business, and they ask to be married. He tells them his flight is boarding, and they tell him the plane will wait. And I suppose if the future queen tells you to wait, you do, which is maybe the only correct thing in this film. You can also see their breath inside the airport, which is confounding to me, and I’d like to know where they shot this. They get married, she promises not to gaslight him anymore or pretend to be someone else. And the whole airport claps. No legal or federal or personal considerations necessary. Huzzah.
The next day is Christmas, and it’s coronation day. This is one of those instances where it’s not so much a Christmas movie as it’s a movie set during Christmas. This whole plot could happen in April and nothing of value would be lost aside from the aesthetic. Future Queen Vanessa is taking a long time to get ready. Women, am I right? That allows Chicago Vanessa and Prince Boring Face to talk, where she apologizes to him for being a big old liar and he apologizes to her for hovering too much. Sir, I feel you do not hover enough. You have a lot of marital issues and trust has been broken multiple times. Go to counseling. They mention having a little prince or princess and now we all know what Princess Switch 3 is going to be about. Because children always make rocky marriages better.
Duchess Vanessa becomes queen, everyone gave up their Christmas morning for this, end of movie. We did it.
I mean. Friends. This plot is too complicated for no reason. I’d more readily believe that the two Vanessas are more in love with each other and themselves then they are with the men. They’re also teaching a young girl that it’s okay to lie and manipulate other people to get what you want romantically. It’s like the writers tried to do a feminism by gender swapping bad tropes. Every man in this movie is a one-dimensional accessory. They have no feelings, no ambitions, no perspective aside from being there, waiting for the princesses to rescue them. And we don’t need this in 2020. We don’t need this at all. Let’s do better next year.
To my readers, I want to take a moment to thank you all for your relentless support. It’s been a doozy of a year, and I’ve struggled to write anything as this pandemic ravaged our world. Writing is where I go to find joy, and it was hard to summon that at times. No matter where you are, I care about you, and wouldn’t be here without you. Be well, stay safe, and let’s all group hug in 2021. ❤️