Friday, December 10, 2021

'Tis the Season - The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star (2021)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star (2021)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family
Length: 106 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production/Distribution: Motion Picture Corporation of America (MPCA), Netflix
Director: Mike Rohl
Writer: Robin Bernheim, Megan Metzger
Actors: Vanessa Hudgens, Remy Hii, Sam Palladio, Nick Sagar, Amanda Donohoe, Florence Hall, Ricky Norwood, Suanne Braun, Mark Fleischmann, Will Kemp, Hazel Beattie, Maia Karelyn Swandi, Eden Gough, Jayda Eyles
Blurb from IMDb: When a priceless relic is stolen, Queen Margaret and Princess Stacy enlist the help of Margaret's cousin Fiona teams with a man from her past to retrieve it, with romance and resulting in a very unexpected switch.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was not looking forward to The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star. Although I found the first of the series to be a cute, if basic, Christmas watch – the second flick did not impress me. After that, I didn’t even have mediocre hopes for this one, and I was right.
The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star was awful.
After sitting through a completely unnecessary recap of the first two films, there was a bit of narration and then a nearly 2-hour display of some of the worst, campiest, acting any of the people involved has ever put forth.
Now, granted, the typical Christmas movies aren’t exactly known for the acting. People just don’t watch for that. They’re watching for the magic and the happy ending. They want to see something that boosts the hope that there’s good in the world. That, even if everything is the worst, something about Christmas will help make things better. I understand that. It’s kind of what I want from a holiday film, as well. Even without taking the acting into account, though, I don’t think The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star delivers on that.
There are some parts trying to force the audience into forgiving, and rooting for, the villain of the last flick. The movie created a ‘poor me’ background for her and rests on the belief that we’ll instantly sympathize. It’s not that successful.

However, I will say that there is no part of me that understands why every film I watch takes the side of a neglectful parent. Almost any media that has a parent return to their child’s life as an adult, looking for forgiveness, will side with the idea that the parent deserves that forgiveness.
Let me tell you how I see it.
The creators of these movies insist that a child, one that has been abused or neglected during their formative years, is responsible for forgiving a grown-ass adult for hurting them in a way that changes their life’s trajectory. No. You do not owe forgiveness to someone that’s hurt you. Regardless of who they are. Do what makes you healthiest. Even, or maybe especially, during the holidays. If you feel like no one supports your choice – I do.
That’s all beside the point.
Even without that part of the story, I was not impressed with The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star. I officially hate this series.

Cat’s Point of View:
Ok, so we all knew what to expect with A Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star. We’ve done this twice already, so 3rd time’s the charm, right? This third installment of holiday-themed royal doppelganger shell games rounds out a solid trilogy. Just when you think that everyone has switched places in as many ways as they possibly could by #2, A Princess Switch 3 asks us to hold its bubbly to take us on another improbably crazy romp through picture-perfect Christmas landscapes. The 3rd installment also takes the ‘cape’ and turns it into a caper.
I know, I know… I couldn’t resist. I digress…
I’ll be honest. A Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star did offer something new, as it delved into the backstory of the look-alike cousin introduced in the 2nd movie. I was, admittedly, curious as to what made her tick. Was there more to her than her seemingly vapid exterior? This flick provides a nice and tidy answer to such questions, and then some.
It’s clear that the cast has a lot of fun making these movies. The same creative team has returned for both sequels, after all. In fact, Vanessa Hudgens (Polar, The Knight Before Christmas, Bad Boys for Life) has been a producer for this new film, as well as the first sequel. That’s a solid indication of either a labor of love or faith in the franchise.

Tuning in for this 3rd installment felt warm and familiar. Nick Sagar (Queen of the South, Shadowhunters, Run the World) and Sam Palladino (Strange Magic, Nashville, Rebel) mesh well alongside their versions of Hudgens’ trifecta of characters.
I really had no illusions that this would step out of the box, and I was pretty sure I had the plot pegged from early in the production. Remy Hii (Marco Polo, 2:22, Spider-Man: Far from Home) was a welcome addition to the ensemble. I appreciated that he was given more layers than your typical character that gets thrown into a series a few sequels in.
While predictable, this film was entertaining. I’ve been sick for the past couple of weeks, so it was refreshing to watch A Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star. I could just turn off my brain and settle in with my hot honeyed tea.
While this fantasy confection remains loaded with the typical recipe of Christmas clichés, if you enjoyed the first 2 movies, you’ll likely fall in love with this third installment. Of course, if the first two weren’t your own cup of proverbial tea, that should inform your viewing decision as well.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 42%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 46%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.5/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 1/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5
P.S. Short in-character dance scenes during the credits.
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

'Tis the Season - A Christmas Movie Christmas (2019)


Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: A Christmas Movie Christmas Alone (2019
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Almost Never Films Inc., MarVista Entertainment, Cosmote Cinema, TF1, TV8, UPtv, WithLove
Director: Brian Herzlinger
Writers: Brant Daugherty, Kimberly Daugherty
Actors: Brant Daugherty, Lana McKissack, Kimberly Daugherty, Ryan Merriman, Randy Wayne, Brigid Duffy, Cleary Herzlinger, Addy Stafford, Terrence Clowe, Tony Semanik, Jeff Wood
IMDb Blurb: Following a Christmas Eve wish to Santa, two sisters wake up inside a Christmas movie.

Cat’s Point of View:
I had an interesting introduction to A Christmas Movie Christmas when Selina messaged me over the weekend to let me know I’d be flying solo on today’s review. All I could do was chuckle and say ‘okay’ when she told me “There is not a force on this Earth that will allow me to write a review for this film. It is WAY too on the optimistic trail.” (She also told me I could quote her on that.) Considering I tend to default to optimism – a regular glass half full girl, I was highly curious what sort of Christmas confection was too sugary to swallow for her.
Let me tell you, it was a doozy – but not necessarily in a bad way.

A Christmas Movie Christmas was a made-for-TV movie that would have been at home on the Hallmark or Lifetime channels. I’m not sure where it originally aired, but I caught it on Hulu. There’s a bit of a twist that makes it a slight step above the regular smarmy Christmas movie fare – this film is self-aware.
The characters in the movie are well aware that they have been transported to a paint by numbers Christmas TV movie. They know what the recipe is, and how cheesy the elements are. Their options were to rebel or revel in the moment. We don’t do spoilers, but you can probably guess how that went.

If I had to compare A Christmas Movie Christmas to anything else by concept, I’d have to say it is a bit like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) but fueled by Christmas magic courtesy of Santa. Sisters are magically transported to a Christmas movie experience and have to play out their roles to fulfill their respective wishes before they can return home.
The premise was cute, and I loved the cast. I was surprised that I actually recognized a couple of the actors involved. Brant Daugherty’s (Pretty Little Liars, Dear White People, The Baker's Son) baker character was sweet and goofy and added a quirky (if a little creepy) element to the story. This production seems to have been a bit of a pet project for him- considering he both co-wrote and co-produced A Christmas Movie Christmas with his now-wife, Kimberly Daugherty (Grey's Anatomy, The Duel, Scales: A Mermaids Tale), who also co-starred in the project.

I also recognized Lana McKissack (Dark/Web, Countdown, Christmas On the Menu) from her horror genre work. I appreciated the change-up for her. I related to her character more than I thought I would.
A Christmas Movie Christmas was everything it was supposed to be and had a few more laughs than the typical TV movie. I’m not sure that it’s one I’d revisit later, but I didn’t roll my eyes as much as I thought I would and my 18-year-old thought it was ‘okay.’ If you’re looking for some movie-within-a movie shenanigans with a side of Christmas magic, you wouldn’t be going wrong by watching A Christmas Movie Christmas. It’s a solid offering for the season.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 46%
Metascore –None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Guidance Rating – PG
Movie Trailer:

Monday, December 6, 2021

'Tis the Season - Single All the Way (2021)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Single All the Way (2021)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length: 99 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production/Distribution: Muse Entertainment Enterprises, Netflix
Director: Michael Mayer
Writer: Chad Hodge
Actors: Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers, Kathy Najimy, Barry Bostwick, Jennifer Coolidge, Jennifer Robertson, Luke Macfarlane, Melanie Leishman, Alexandra Beaton, Madison Brydges, Steve Lund, Gryffin Hanvelt, Viggo Hanvelt, Dan Finnerty, Stefano DiMatteo, Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles, Adam Capriolo, Christopher Hayes, Matt Keyes, Marvin Ishmael
IMDb Blurb: Desperate to avoid his family's judgment about his perpetual single status, Peter convinces his best friend Nick to join him for the holidays and pretend that they're now in a relationship.

Selina’s Point of View:
When I got together the list of movies coming out in December, this was one of a handful that I just KNEW I had figured out by the title alone.

I pictured a girl returning home as single (or recently dumped) and either being set up with, or meeting, the man of her dreams. A guy who teaches her the meaning of Christmas. Aside from the main leads being gay, I was pretty close.  

I’m a little annoyed by it. The trailer made Single All the Way look like it was going to have a bit more of a unique angle. I got my hopes up.

Single All the Way wasn’t a complete waste of time. It was, however, just an LGBTQ+ version of your typical Hallmark Christmas flick. It had some decent moments, though.

The inevitable ‘admission-of-feelings’ scenes were very cute. They had that awkward, bumbling, quality to them that people have in real life when admitting to a friend that they have romantic feelings. I like that. When movies pretty those scenes up too much, I have trouble suspending disbelief. This felt a little more natural.

That said, the script was not my favorite. If I ever hear anyone utter the word ‘guncle’ again? I’m going to have a tantrum. That is officially the non-slur word I hate most in any language that exists. Didn’t know it was a thing until today, never want to hear it again.

I also had some issues with the way some characters were portrayed. There were a LOT of stereotypes in use. Most of it was stuff that was prevalent in LGBTQ+ films from the 90s. We’ve come a long way since then. Our films should reflect that.

Now, I’m not saying it was offensive. It wasn’t. There were a lot of positive ideas and perspectives in it – I just think there were a few characterizations that could have felt a smidge less dated.

This is not the kind of film I would seek out during the year. That said, if you’re looking specifically for a rom-com Christmas movie, it’s not the worst of the bunch. 

Cat’s Point of View:
Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. I love the joy the season brings. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true! Christmas decorations, with their colorful grandeur or even simple twinkling beauty, lift my spirits with a glance; and the melodies of carols soar above the grinding minutia of regular daily life. I love the time with family and friends. It also helps that my favorite color is one of the staples of the season – green. I digress… The point is that I get excited around this time of year, and I’m a bit particular about my Christmas movies. They need to feel magical in some way or at least be very entertaining.
Single All the Way succeeded in the entertainment department.
When Selina and I watched the trailer in preparation for this month’s Top 20 Movies to Look Out for in December 2021 article, we could generally predict the potential outcomes for the film, but it gave me good vibes and hope that the journey would be worth it. That paid off.

Everyone felt real, rather than walking stereotypes. That was an amazing edge for Single All the Way. The characters felt like people instead of caricatures, dodging one of the pitfalls that plague the representation of LGBTQ+ in cinema. I believed the quirky/crazy family dynamic and bought what the movie was selling as the deep friendship between the main characters.
It also blows my mind that Single All the Way was apparently the feature film debut of Philemon Chambers. His chemistry with Michael Urie (Abducted, Younger, Swan Song) hit on all of the right notes for me. I also adored the fact that his character, Nick, is an author who wrote a children’s book about adopting a dog. There are so many little nuances to their deeper story that enrich the movie.

I’ll be honest. My initial excitement for Single All the Way came from the fact that Kathy Najimy (Dumplin', Veep, Duncanville) and Barry Bostwick (Incredibles 2, Slay Belles, The Potwins) were in this production together. I adore them and am willing to give their projects a chance – even if on the surface they look like a corn-fest. I’m rarely ever disappointed. I’m glad to say that I wasn’t here, either.
Sure, we always knew where this by-the-numbers rom-com was going. The route it took, however, made it work. Single All the Way captured the spirit of the season and a little bit of that sparkly Christmas magic. Grab some family or friends and a mug of something hot and yummy and snuggle in for this one on Netflix.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 62%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 71%
Metascore –49%
Metacritic User Score – 6.9/10
IMDB Score – 6.4/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 3/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5 /5
P.S. A scene plays during the credits.
Movie Trailer: