We Got Twins To Review The New Twin-Film ’The Princess Switch’

We love romance movies. We love Christmas. We are twins.

The Princess Switch review

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We love romance movies. We love Christmas. We are twins. So, it’s basically impossible for us to not have a million opinions and questions about Netflix’s latest seasonal offering The Princess Switch.

The Princess Switch hits all the right notes by giving the audience what they want — Christmas miracles, steamy love interests, a Princess and the Pauper storyline that even Nancy Meyers would cringe at.

Most importantly it gives us what we didn’t even know we wanted but yes, oh god, yes, we want it: TWO Vanessa Hudgens.

If you haven’t seen The Princess Switch yet, don’t worry, there’s still time.

In fact, it will only become more relevant over the next six weeks. If that’s still too much to ask, then you can watch this three-minute trailer and then say you HAVE seen the movie because nothing unexpected happens at all. We can guarantee that if you have even a passing interest in romantic narratives, you have seen this movie before.

There is still a lot to talk about in this film, especially as twins, but we’ll deal with the most interesting topic: the apparent return of the ‘dual role’ in movies.

Double Trouble

The ‘dual role’ trope — where one actor plays two characters in the same movie or production — feels like it was forged in the late-90s and 2000s.

Who could forget The Parent Trap, or The Lizzie McGuire Movie, or Monte Carlo? We can’t. Add to the list The Princess Switch, which could have been made exactly as is (minus the scene where the protagonists watch Netflix… in a Netlifx movie) at any point in the last 30 years.

The opening credits to this movie are so reminiscent of a tape-recorded late-90s free-to-air movie that your brain might automatically superimpose some VHS graininess.

The dual role trope, of course, has a life outside of these pre-teen relics. It’s an ancient device that works both comically, like in The Princess Switch, and, in other contexts, as a way to symbolise character depth. For example, Captain Hook and Mr Darling are always played by the same person in productions of Peter Pan, likewise for King Lear and the Fool.

For the more filmically inclined, think The Prestige, or Adaptation. Although it seems like a cheesy little trope, it has a huge fascinating history and the potential to convey an enormous depth of character.

Obviously, The Princess Switch is not into depth.

The particular flavour of the ‘dual role’ this movie taps into is the Princess and the Pauper: two identical strangers, one royal and one destitute, have a chance encounter and decide to swap places. Badda bing badda boom, you’ve got yourself an enduring narrative structure.

It’s a narrative structure that’s increasingly relevant.

Twins Are Important In The Princess Switch

Sure, this is a Christmas movie, sure it’s a romance — but above all else, we feel that this is a movie about class and economic inequality.

Told completely within the comfort of the fantasy idea: what if things were different — but not TOO different!

Case in point, there is ZERO character development for ANYONE in The Princess Switch. No one changes or grows or learns — they just shift circumstances (or more accurately, have their circumstance shifted for them because that’s how incapable they are of making a real-world change).

There is no moral to the story, no one learns a valuable lesson.

In fact, the two Vanessa Hudgensses hardly interact at all. They are always standing a conspicuous distance apart (sure, sure, blame technological limitations and green screens. If they can make a CGI Paddington Bear talk, then they can make two Vanessa Hudgens stand closer than a metre apart!)

Without deep-diving into identity and difference too much, it’s frustrating to see characters completely defined by what they don’t have compared to others or defined only by what they are in relation to someone similar. This happens to twins IRL where you must be the good one or the evil one, the sporty one, the nerdy one, the taller one, etc — instead of being a fully formed and self-contained individual. We each contain multitudes!!!!

Alas, this movie is SO concerned with keeping the focus on how different they are, it refuses to let them be the same, to share, to cross over and show malleable identities, because The Princess Switch is only about representing difference as unchangeable.

It’s A Christmas Miracle

Don’t get me wrong, we WANT romance, mistletoe, snowflakes in eyelashes, mistletoe again, chandeliers in the stables (yes, really).

Christmas and romance movies are both genres that love to indulge in the possibility of magic that will fix everything, that will make the world right. This movie offers the illusion of changing circumstances, with nothing actually changing. It lets you believe that a different life is possible, while… doing nothing to achieve that.

We can’t even say for sure if this movie DOES contain magical moments (Is the old guy Santa?! Are they mystically identical or is it really some genetic coincidence?!) because, like its characters, it is literally incapable of self-examining itself for fear of shattering the illusion of progress and development. Things just happen in this movie. There’s no moving from A to B. There’s just… A.

And maybe Santa?

Ruminations aside, this movie is charming as all get out, and Emma laughed often (not Hannah, though). Is it worth your time? Sure, if you’re into this kind of stuff. Are we going to see more movies like this? Absolutely, without a doubt, take it to the bank.

This movie is the product of the Netflix algorithm picking up on the fact that increasing social and economic difference is a key topic of the moment — but that people want to be consoled, escape, and forget, rather than do anything about it. At the end of the day, Netflix looked deep into the eyes of the algorithm and begged for some original content.

And the algorithm, in all its wisdom, whispered back, no… but I can give you two Vanessa Hudgens.

And here we are. Merry Christmas.

Parent Trap, eat your dang heart out. (Pictured: the authors)

Emma is a writer, critic, and theorist. She tweets at @ed_jenko.

Hannah is a writer, critic, and poet (see, not identical). She tweets at @hiijenks.