Netflix Gets in the Christmas Spirit With Fun and Frothy ‘The Princess Switch’

The holiday season is fast approaching, which means plenty of Christmas-themed films will soon be flooding basic cable. However, with the rise of streaming services, Hallmark and Freeform no longer have the market cornered on these sort of guilty-pleasure flicks. Netflix is now in the game, which is evident from its latest original film, “The Princess Switch,” a romantic comedy containing all the right ingredients for a feel-good holiday film: A former Disney star, two hunky men, an adorable child, baked goods, and plenty of Christmas trappings.

“The Princess Switch” is the perfect vehicle for its star, Vanessa Hudgens, who first made a name for herself in Disney’s “High School Musical” franchise. Like Lindsay Lohan and Hayley Mills before her, Hudgens finds herself working double time here, playing the dual roles of Chicago baker Stacy De Novo and European duchess Lady Margaret Dellacorte, two women whose paths would have never crossed if Stacy hadn’t been invited to compete in a prestigious baking competition in Belgravia, a fictional country most likely based on Monaco. Stacy, who is still recovering from a recent break-up, is accompanied on her journey by her best friend and sous-chef, charming single dad Kevin (Nick Sagar), and his precocious eight-year-old daughter, Olivia (Alexa Adeosun). The baking competition coincides with the arrival of the fiancée of Prince Edward (Sam Palladio), the reclusive Duchess Margaret, whom Stacy bumps into, literally, not long after her arrival, and the resemblance between the two women is uncanny.  Margaret is experiencing a case of pre-wedding jitters, to say the least, and she convinces the commoner to take her place for a few days, which would allow the noblewoman to experience life a normal gal in her new country before she enters into her dynastic marriage. Stacey endears herself to the viewer by asking nothing for herself in exchange for agreeing to this whacky plan, only that she secure a scholarship for Olivia to an expensive ballet school.

Even with Margaret’s longtime lady-in-waiting, Mrs. Donatelli (Suanne Braun), helping there are bound to be a few hiccups, the biggest one being Prince Edward, who cancels a diplomatic trip to spend time with the woman whom he believes to be his betrothed. However, the dashing prince finds himself truly falling for this “new” Margaret, whose Type-A personality suits him rather well, and vica versa. The real Margaret, meanwhile, takes a liking to the more laid-back Kevin.

Hudgens is a natural in this kind of role, and it certainly helps that she has chemistry with both leading men. Overall, “The Princess Switch” fun, cozy little film. There’s plenty of jolly scenery and cute costumes, although one cannot help but question Margaret’s decision to prance around in short skirts during snow falls. It’s only major weakness is that it lacks a clear villain. There’s a half-baked subplot involving Stacy’s cooking school rival, Brianna (Amy Griffiths) that comes out flat. Similarly, royal spy Fran De Luca (Mark Fleischmann) proves to be less of a nuisance than he would wish. There’s also a guardian angel of sorts (Robin Soans) thrown into the mix, although this is the kind of film where one is able easily suspend their disbelief and buy into crazy coincidences without them being explained away by the presence of a supernatural being.

The Princess Switch” premieres Nov. 16 on Netflix.