Because I like writing for fun sometimes, I am rededicating this blog, for now, to reviewing the holiday movies I have watched and will watch over the coming month, months, and year. And for the sake of continuity, I want to start with the first movie I watched this month which was The Princess Switch.
The Princess Switch, a Netflix original, stars Vanessa Hudgens and a bunch of other people who are only there to give Vanessa Hudgens the real star-making vehicle she has deserved since her, I presume, debut in High School Musical. According to her IMDB page, since then, she’s starred in critically acclaimed Neutrogena commercials and a few music videos for a music career, that presumably, never took off. So thankfully, finally, someone gave her a chance to show off her acting chops and boy does she. Playing, of course, both the soon-to-be Princess, Lady Margaret, and the norm-core Chicago girl, Stacy De Novo, who owns a bakery, Vanessa Hudgens, previously Vanessa Anne Hudgens, gives the performance, no two performances, of a Lifetime. The two girls Parent Trap it up for plot reasons and we get Vanessa Hudgens as Stacy De Novo as Lady Margaret and vice versa.
Underlying this switch is an upcoming wedding and a baking contest which hits all the notes of the current zeitgeist and holiday movies in general and contains the events of the movie to two days. Turns out, a lot can happen in two days as both characters fall in love with the man they aren’t supposed to. Stacy (as Lady Margaret) falls in love with Edward, the tall, cute royal who is also a little clueless while Lady Margaret (as Stacy) falls in love with Kevin, the erstwhile solidly friendzoned “sous” chef of Stacy. There is the ever-present precocious child, Kevin’s daughter from a previous relationship, who quickly puts the pieces together. On the other side, we get meddling royal relatives sneaking about to figure out why Lady Margaret is acting so strangely all of a sudden. To call this movie formulaic would be an understatement but the formula works, at least on me it did in this case. The performances are clearly heartfelt and, I think, self-aware. No one is trying to win an Academy Award here; in fact, I think they’re aware of the genre and even attempting to nod at that in their performances. I might be giving her and them too much credit, but Vanessa Hudgens body language, in particular, is VERY expressive without being distracting. She finds a middle ground between the typical overacting of these movies and the increasingly “stoic” nature of “real acting”.
Other things this movie does well include the snow covered shots of small towns and palaces. Sometimes these shots can come off as, well, cold, but the directors imbue a warmth even into the cold that sets this film apart from other holiday romance films. The baking challenge is, obviously no-stakes, but still sort of fun to watch for the typical sabotage and intrigue that occurs in that setting. The movie also nods to Netflix previous holiday movies when Lady Margaret (as Stacy) and Kevin cozy up to watch a movie together. They pick The Christmas Inheritance (or The Christmas Prince, I cant remember) which is a fun bit of meta-marketing that will work for some, me, and not for others. All in all, this film was a hoot and a half. I don’t expect that any of the holiday movies I watch will revolutionize film-making, or really even that very specific genre, but I do expect them to be fun and build a world I can sink into for ~90 minutes of hedonistic joy.
So with that as the established criteria, reader, I leave you waiting for the next review. So far, I have already watched Netflix’s The Christmas Calendar and The Christmas Prince 2, Ion television’s A Prince for Christmas, and a part of both Christmas in Compton and A Christmas Reunion. I said I’d start at the beginning for continuity’s sake but I have no idea which of those I watched second so tune in next time for a surprise review of a film out of this very mixed bag.