Vanessa Hudgens returns to bring us yet another Christmas special in the form of The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star on Netflix. This time around, a priceless relic is stolen, so Queen Margaret (Vanessa Hudgens) and Princess Stacy (Vanessa Hudgens) enlist the help of Fiona Pembroke (Vanessa Hudgens) and a friend from her past in order to retrieve it.
There’s no questioning the fact that the first two Princess Switch movies are nothing more than guilty pleasure cheesy rom-coms. They’re solid pieces of lighthearted fun that you can enjoy by just sitting down and switching your mind off for the night. Unfortunately for Vanessa Hudgens, third time is not the charm. This film fails to bring back the cheesy fun and lighthearted romance that made the last two films so palatable – resulting in an end product that’s slow, sometimes boring, and doesn’t make much of an argument as to why it needed to be made. The Princess Switch: Switched Again had a very clear draw – it introduced a third doppelgänger for Vanessa Hudgens to play, ultimately bringing a new dynamic to the narrative. This time, there’s no new Hudgens character to sell the film, so it needed to craft a new story with the existing characters that was equally as interesting – but it failed.
Aside from the occasional hit of silly humour and the great trio of performances from Vanessa Hudgens, there’s not a whole lot on offer here. The narrative takes a while to really get going, with the bulk of the first act spent setting up a new character and laying the groundwork for what’s to come, however none of it is that engaging. There’s almost nothing in the story entertaining enough to keep you locked in. The romantic comedy elements are quite weak, and the attempt at introducing some heist elements falls flat. Part of the issue might be that the bulk of this movie focuses on the Fiona Pembroke character, giving her a complete character arc that has us learn a lot more about her and her history. This would be a good thing if that character was interesting, however there’s not enough substance there to really get you on board with her narrative. It’s a shame that this is the direction the story takes, because it just feels like a major misfire.
When it comes to performances, it feels like the only one (or three) worth mentioning is that of Vanessa Hudgens. Her ability to visually transform into each of these three characters through something as simple as a wig, an accent and a few key mannerisms is pretty great. After three films, it’s clear that she’s nailed how to bring each character to life and make them all feel unique. She’s charming, charismatic and is the sole actor bringing any sort of entertainment factor to the film. It’s unfortunate that the likes of Nick Sagar (Prince Kevin) and Sam Palladio (Prince Edward) don’t make an impact this time around since they don’t really have much to do. So much attention is placed on the Fiona character, that time is taken away from the other mainstays of the franchise.
If anything, the little bits of cheesy comedy are the only moments that bring some levity to the film. Are they silly moments? Yes, but if you’re watching this movie for anything besides the cheesiness, then you’re doing it wrong. Not all of the attempts at comedy hit. There are a number of moments that don’t garner any sort of amusement, mostly because they’re a little too campy – even for this film.
In the end, I can’t say there’s enough in this film to have warranted its creation, and it seems the intrigue and fun of this franchise has run dry. There’s still some entertainment in seeing Vanessa Hudgens work her magic as three different characters, and there are a few successfully comedic silly moments to emphasise the more lighthearted tone. However, the lack of an interesting story, combined with the slow pace and occasional boring sections, leads to an overall product that’s just not as enjoyable as its predecessors. It doesn’t even really emphasise the Christmas spirit element that is much more prominent in the prior entries. For fans of The Princess Switch, there’s bits and pieces in here to enjoy, but if you want a more fulfilling Christmas adventure then maybe just give the first two film a rewatch.