The Princess Switch, out on Netflix Friday, November 16, is the platonic ideal of Christmas romances, full stop.
For the most part, Christmas romances fall into two camps. There are contemporary Christmas romances, which are set in small towns quainter than Star's Hollow and involve two good-looking people completing a Christmas-related quest (see: Netflix's recent The Holiday Calendar). Then, there are royal Christmas movies, which are about a royal-commoner relationship and choose from a pool of words like "Christmas," "prince," and "royal" to form a title (see: Netflix's A Christmas Prince).
But categorizing The Princess Switch isn't as straightforward. This cinematic gem isn't either a royal romance or a contemporary romance; The Princess Switch is the "and" of Christmas romances. It's both a royal romance and a contemporary romance. As a result, The Princess Switch contains double the amount of Christmas movie tropes. There are ballgown reveals on grand carpeted staircases (royal trope). There are Christmas-themed baking competitions (contemporary trope). There are precocious young girls who know better than the adults (royal and contemporary trope). There are slightly angelic old men who nudge people in the direction of their hearts (It's a Wonderful Life trope).
What's the explanation for such abundance? It's easy: The Princess Switch has not one but two women falling in love in the enchanted period that is the lead-up to Christmas. One is a royal. One is a baker. They are identical. You are correct in thinking this is the formula for a superb holiday movie.
In The Princess Switch, Vanessa Hudgens is responsible for singlehandedly bridging the Christmas movie sub-genre gap. She plays Stacy Denovo, the baseball hat-wearing owner of a Chicago bakery called Sweet Treats. She also plays Lady Margaret Delacorte, the slightly reclusive Duchess of Montenaro who wears large sunglasses and avoids public attention. Stacy and Margaret meet in the kitchens of the palace in Belgravia, where Stacy is competing in the fictional European country's baking competition (because of course she is).
Staring at each other's faces, Margaret and Stacy share a double-take right out of The Parent Trap. They chalk their uncanny resemblance up to a runaway relative of Margaret's, who had relocated to the United States generations ago. Then, Margaret gets an idea. This is her last chance to pull a Roman Holiday and briefly escape the confinements of royal duty. In a prim British accent, Margaret commands that she and Stacy switch places for two days. Margaret will live with Kevin (Nick Sagar), Stacy's business partner and best friend from high school, and his young daughter, Olivia (Alexa Adeosun). Stacy will go to the palace, though Prince Edward (Sam Palladio), Margaret's fiancé, will be traveling for "public affairs." The women will return to their proper lives the midnight before the competition.
So, Stacy chops off her hair, Margaret erases her posh accent, and the women finally switch places. From there, things obviously go haywire — and for more reasons than Stacy saying "prithee tell" at the breakfast table with the King and Queen of Belgravia, thinking that's how royals speak. Stacy ends up falling for Prince Edward, who had returned from his business trip early to work on his fledgling relationship with Margaret. Whereas Margaret and Edward have no chemistry, Stacy and Edward bond over their shared love of schedules and The Little Prince. Clearly, it's love. Across town, Margaret succumbs to the charm of Kevin's dimples.
By the end of the two-day escapade, Margaret decides she's just a "normal girl" and Stacy is better suited for public life than she. Unlike her, Stacy is "meant to be a princess." She cedes the royal life — and the prince himself— to Stacy. Prince Edward proposes to Stacy, the upgraded Duchess. Edward just got what many of us, at some point in our dating histories, have yearned for: Replacing our S.O.'s personality with a slightly tweaked, slightly more compatible one. He keeps the Duchess' face, but gets a new Duchess.
Ultimately, one must wonder about the equitability of this trade-off. The Princess Switch showed the specs of the Duchess's closet in the palace; it's approximately the size of a studio apartment. Will the Duchess's wealth follow her to Chicago? Or will Kevin's charm and the daily bakery grind make up for all that couture?
Realistically speaking, since this is the universe of The Princess Switch, Margaret won't have to give anything up. That's the real miracle of The Princess Switch — no one does. Margaret's still a Duchess, but now she can be with a "normal boy," apparently her ideal type. Stacy is now a royal, but Prince Edward assures her she's also still a baker. "You can still be a baker from Chicago," Prince Edward says when Stacy protests that she can't be with him, she's just a baker. "We'll pick up your shop and move it here. Or you can open up a shop here!"
But we know this isn't how the jump from civilian to royal really works. We've seen it first-hand. Earlier this year, we watched a woman cut out vestiges of her old life so she could marry the prince she loved. Meghan Markle's not an actress anymore. But Stacy can still have a career, because this is a movie.
Just as its main characters get happy, sacrifice-free endings, The Princess Switch doesn't have to choose what kind of movie it is, either. It can be every kind of Christmas romance, all at once. Embrace it, baby. This is the kind of holiday magic you get when you're an adult: Allowing yourself to suspend disbelief and enjoy The Princess Switch.