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The Princess Switch: Switched Again is more Vanessa Hudgens drag variety hour than holiday rom-com

The Princess Switch is back, this time with more bad accents but less holiday charm.

Vanessa Hudgens as Fiona in The Princess Switch: Switched Again
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

In a world of love, chaos, succession, and suffering, everything orbits around a life destined for royalty. To rule a country in this world, you must be willing to give up your life. To ensure your legacy, you must be willing to give up even more than that.

This is the story of Netflix’s The Princess Switch: Switched Again.

But Switched Again is obviously not The Crown. It is a cutesy holiday movie, which means it’s more about harmless fun than dramatic royal tension. Netflix’s budding Princess Switch cinematic universe is best defined by lots of baking scenes and the magical holiday trope of “anything can happen at Christmas” — both crucial parts of Netflix’s ongoing saccharine assault on Hallmark Channel territory.

The Princess Switch saga began when humble Chicago baker Stacy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Lady Margaret (also Hudgens), a duchess from the fictional European country of Montenaro, engaged in The Prince and the Pauper-style identical-twin tomfoolery during a holiday pastry competition in the fictional kingdom of Belgravia.

The latter got to live life as a normal person for just one day, and the former got a taste for the life of luxury. Despite committing fraud and perhaps some light espionage (listen, we don’t know what kind of state secrets Stacy may eventually divulge), both their friends and the kingdoms of Montenaro and Belgravia forgave the two for their scheme and allowed them to live happily ever after. And it was all because they were honest about their feelings — in particular, their romantic feelings for their new love interests.

In Switched Again, Hudgens reprises both of her roles and adds a third character to the mix. Hudgens is now also Fiona, Margaret’s party-girl cousin, who has apparently existed this entire time in the Princess Switch universe but has surfaced only recently thanks to Margaret’s impending coronation as Montenaro’s ruler. With Fiona in the mix, the series shifts from the holiday rom-com of its predecessor into something better resembling a Vanessa Hudgens variety hour. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it turns out. It just might not be what fans of the silly, predictable, invariably holiday-themed original truly want.

Welcome to Vanessa Hudgens’s drag brunch

Vanessa Hudgens x Vanessa Hudgens in The Princess Switch: Switched Again.

Switched Again begins where the first movie left off. (Netflix offers a two-minute recap at the beginning, in case you forgot the simplistic plot or are, for whatever reason, a first-time Princess Switch viewer.) Stacy and Prince Edward of Belgravia (Sam Palladio) are now married after falling in love when Stacy and Margaret switched places, which makes Stacy royalty. Margaret and Kevin (Nick Sagar), Stacy’s best friend and sous baker, fell in love too. But as Stacy narrates in the recap, the king of Montenaro has died, and Margaret is next in line for the throne. This puts a toll on their relationship, and the stress has led to Margaret and Kevin’s breakup.

You might have already guessed that this story isn’t really about Margaret becoming Montenaro’s new benevolent dictator. Rather, Switched Again asks whether a subsequent switch between Margaret and Stacy can mend the former’s fractured relationship. The two hatch a plan to switch places again, to see if a few hours spent out of the spotlight (and with Kevin instead) will do the trick.

Under normal circumstances, this would be a horrendous plan. But this is the Princess Switch universe, where romances bloom because people lie about who they really are. Switching places for a day could definitely be a way to save Kevin and Margaret’s relationship.

The problem is that Fiona, Margaret’s hard-partying cousin who looks exactly like Margaret and Stacy, stands in the way. Though she’s royalty by relation, she’s run out of money, which is why she wants to kidnap and switch places with Margaret for a day. Fiona believes that if she assumes Margaret’s identity, she can cut herself a huge check and just live on Capri forever.

While Fiona’s dreams are somewhat enviable, her execution leaves a lot to be desired. She doesn’t seem to have figured out the very complicated task of kidnapping a royal, nor has she taken into account anything that happens after she flees for Capri. (Who will run Montenaro if Margaret is gone? What happens if Margaret tells the authorities of the high treason Fiona has committed by kidnapping a royal? Should Fiona just murder Margaret to keep her quiet?)

Fiona’s logic, like the plot of the Princess Switch movies themselves, isn’t well developed, but asking for logic or plot in any holiday movie is a pointless exercise. It’s like going to a doughnut shop and ordering the one with the least calories: It’s a doughnut, not a health food. Holiday movie lovers make a bargain with holiday movie producers that they won’t worry about pesky terrestrial drawbacks like logic, reality, or pessimism, and in exchange, they’ll be showered with harmless, absurd, silly joy.

And in The Princess Switch: Switched Again, Hudgens’s awful British accent is central to that joy.

Almost everyone in Montenaro and Belgravia, including Hudgens’s Margaret, inexplicably speaks with a strange, vaguely British accent. This was established in the first movie, and Hudgens still sounds far from authentic the second time around. Her awful accent makes me think of wild scenarios, wherein it’s a satirical nod to the ills of colonialism, or maybe some kind of statement about Montenaro’s class and affluence, but Occam’s razor suggests Hudgens is just not great at doing a British accent. (Or maybe it really is purposefully bad?)

Hudgens’s flubbed inflections make exponentially more sense when she plays Stacy (a Chicagoan) impersonating Margaret. Fiona, who is not from Chicago but is a cousin to Margaret, possesses the same speech patterns as Stacy, Margaret, and Stacy impersonating Margaret, but she seems to channel a bit of Eartha Kitt in flashes.

By making Hudgens jump between playing these three characters, Switched Again resembles something like Vanessa Hudgens’s Drag Race or Vanessa Hudgens Presents: Westworld. There’s a lot of time spent watching Vanessa Hudgens say the words “coronation,” “orphans,” and “Kevin” to Vanessa Hudgens. When those moments aren’t happening, it’s Vanessa Hudgens in a blonde wig saying something vaguely bitchy to a brown-haired Vanessa Hudgens. The movie is simultaneously a test of Hudgens’s innate charisma and how much viewers enjoy watching her.

The drawback to Switched Again going full-on Hudgens charm offensive is that the first movie’s holiday antics aren’t as present this time around. The silly contrivances about Christmas magic and effects like Belgravia’s dorky-but-lovable holiday baking competition barely exist. The absurd twinning hijinks are gone too. The supporting characters are shuffled off to the side, save for small instances where the movie remembers that two of them are the main characters’ love interests. There’s barely any reason this movie is tethered to the holidays, except that Montenaro’s coronation traditionally takes place on Christmas.

Not unlike the previous movie, Switched Again is a perfectly harmless way to burn 90 minutes, during which you won’t worry about the awful things happening in real life. It’s inoffensively fine — the conflict is never too high-stakes, and the happy ending is happy enough. Hudgens is game and extremely fun to watch, which is a big success on the movie’s part. But with The Princess Switch now supposed to be one of Netflix’s new marquee holiday-movie franchises, with such low stakes and the curve of holiday movie, you wouldn’t be incorrect in wishing for something a little sillier and cheesier, with a little less kidnapping and fewer hammy accents.

The Princess Switch: Switched Again is currently streaming on Netflix.