Who wouldn’t like to spend the winter holidays with good friends at a lavishly decorated palace in the kingdom of Montenaro, where glittering cascades of snow shower the beautiful people almost every time they step outside?
There’s not a surgical mask or pair of rubber gloves in sight, and royals and commoners alike are hugging (ahh, hugging) and air-kissing almost frantically, as if they might soon be forbidden to make physical contact at all. For months. Like us. Which is why this imaginary kingdom, artificial though it might be, is appealing right now.
Yes, “The Princess Switch: Switched Again” is syrupy, and no, beyond its central gimmick, there is little substance to be found. But the same could be said for many a beloved romance film or holiday movie. Even its predecessor, “The Princess Switch,” generated enough loyalty to inspire this sequel.
This time, Vanessa Hudgens (“High School Musical”) does triple duty, starring as Duchess Margaret of Montenaro, Princess Stacy of Belgravia (a royal-by-marriage who used to be a baker in Chicago) and the evil cousin Fiona, burdened with a long, heavy blond wig, who sounds like a cheesy Mae West and travels with a cartoonish Cockney hench-couple.
This story, directed by Mike Rohl, packs Christmas, a coronation and a wedding into one big enchanted snowball held together by awkward exposition.
There’s another baker in Chicago, Nick Sagar, who’s sweet on Margaret, the queen to be, but too fiercely proud to approach her after their relationship crumbled. But his scheming little matchmaker of a daughter, Olivia (Mia Lloyd), gets him on a plane to Montenaro and into a holiday mood.
Margaret’s overly accessorized chief of staff, Antonio (Lachlan Nieboer), has plans for her. So does Fiona. The contrived resolution sets in motion a triple switch, a kidnapping and an accelerated coronation schedule. And then it’s over, and without leaving the sofa, or Netflix, you can point your remote at Season 4 of “The Crown,” where you’ll find royal weddings and gravitas, too.
The Princess Switch: Switched Again
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes. Watch on Netflix.