Or… as old as the merging-of-two-frames editing technique. Vanessa Hudgens is the latest star to sink down to join in on the low budget Christmas movie train, playing two mysteriously identical strangers who swap places and assume each other’s identities. Sound familiar? The answer should be yes, because since time immemorial we’ve witnessed many a Disney starlet in more or less the same film. The question is, who did it better? Someone call Us Weekly, because we are blowing this sh*t wide open.
IT TAKES TWO
(MARY KATE & ASHLEY OLSEN, 1995)
Okay, to be fair (barring any outlandish conspiracy theories), these two actually are separate human beings, but the identity swap principle still applies. In this 90’s classic, orphan-girl/ inner-city-kid Amanda attempts to trespass explores the woods beyond the grounds of her summer camp and bumps (quite literally) into prim and proper Alyssa, who lives with her rich ass wealthy father, Roger. Amanda is about to be adopted by the Butkises, the family who collects kids for child labour- actually you know what, it was for child labour- and Alyssa is about to have the gold-digging stepmother from hell, Clarice. They decide to swap places so Alyssa can know what it’s like to be a real kid and Amanda can know what it’s like to have real human affection, and they work together to set up Alyssa’s social worker with Amanda’s father. Chaos, food fights, and less-than-romantic horseback rides ensue.
Pros: Olsen twins before their acting skills absolutely nosedived. Kirstie Alley. Whoever the rich dad’s driver was.
Cons: The Butkises. The horror that was THIS scene.
Most memorable line:
Amanda: It’s got to be that can’t-eat, can’t-sleep, reach-for-the-stars, over-the-fence, World Series kind of stuff, right?
THE PARENT TRAP
(LINDSAY LOHAN, 1998)
Another unmistakable 90’s classic, which also coincidentally involves the same-but-not-the-same girls to meet over summer camp. Hallie is a cool, laid back Cali gal while Annie is a posh English girl. Despite a rocky start meeting at summer camp (what are the chances!) the girls realize they have the same birthday… and the same parents- wait, they’re sisters?! They decide to switch places so that they can like, actually MEET the other parent who has abandoned them for years, and set up their rich vineyard owning father with their classy but slightly disheveled mother, and also get rid of their treacherous stepmother to be, Meredith Blake. They succeed, and though this movie has the best cast and best soundtrack possible, it is seriously unsettling how f*cked up it is for their parents to keep them apart and live without one of their own daughters. What kind of co-parenting tactic is that?!
Pros: Dennis Quaid. Dennis Quaid. Dennis Quaid. The epic handshake sequence. Vineyards. London. The crackling-candy-wrapper-to-sound-like-static phone hack. Also Janice from Friends.
Ohhh. Myyyy. GAAAHD.
Cons: The cringey prank wars between Hallie and Annie that are honestly very telling of how frightening and ruthless 12 year old girls can be. The hot-pin-and-apple-as-a-homemade-ear-piercing-kit. Meredith and the lizard. This movie is not for the weak of stomach.
Most memorable line:
Hallie (or Annie, who tf knows): So if your Mom is my Mom and my Dad is your Dad… and we’re both born on October 11th, then you and I are… like… sisters.
THE LIZZIE MCGUIRE MOVIE
(HILARY DUFF, 2003)
In the best movie-from-a-TV-show production of all time, Lizzie and her, like what, eighth grade graduation class take a graduation trip to Italy (??? wtf? Is this PCA? How is everyone affording this?). Lizzie bumps into Paolo, a cute, charming Italian boy whose age I am really troubled by and don’t want to think about too much tbh, because I am already scarred from watching one too many episodes of Age Gap Couples. While Gordo is trapped in the Upside Down friend zone, Lizzie begins gallivanting around Rome with Paolo, who out of the blue drops a bomb on her that she is the exact Doppelganger for his former singing partner and could she like, assume her identity? Leave it to Lizzie McGuire to say yes, Kate willingly helping her out by covering for her (yes, hell really has freezed over) and shit to hit the fan. It all ends with Paolo being exposed for the weenie that he is (which we really should have anticipated from this lewk below):
We have Lizzie performing at the Colo freakin seum, while Gordo is clawing his way out of the friend zone (but I’m sure if Lizzie McGuire continued into their high school years she would have fallen for a Jesse McCartney or equivalent hottie of the day and dumped Gordo’s ass).
Pros: Italy. Pasta. Ethan Craft!
Cons: Paolo. No Miranda?!
Most Memorable Lines (because you can’t pick just one):
Kate: Lizzie McGuire, you are an outfit repeater!
Isabella: Sing to me, Paolo!
(SELENA GOMEZ, 2011)
After years of saving from her shitty waitress job, Grace, a down-on-her-luck Texan girl fresh out of high school, finally gets to go to Paris with David Cassidy’s daughter her coworker Emma. Instead of the vacation of her dreams, she gets a shitty tour bus version of the city with Blair Waldorf as her salty stepsister, Meg, tagging along. It doesn’t take long for the girls to have a falling out and find themselves in a swanky hotel lobby to take shelter from the rainstorm that is kind of a metaphor for their disaster of a trip. Their luck changes when Grace is mistaken for a wealthy British heiress, and with some encouragement from Emma takes her place and fills in for her duties, which leads the three girls to Monaco. Grace falls for Theo, a local rich boy with other character qualities that don’t seem notable to me at the moment; Meg falls for an adventurous Aussie, and Emma just really wants to get home to her long term boyfriend Owen and install some dimmer lights. Of course the fiasco unfolds when Cordelia returns unexpectedly, and some drama goes down with an expensive piece of jewelry going missing (a telltale sign of an unoriginal plot). But not to worry because just like every chick flick out there, everyone gets a happy ending.
Pros: The excellent casting of romantic interests (Read: Corey Monteith, Luke Bracey, Pierre Boulanger). Who Says. Monte Carlo- it actually looks really effing bomb. Why is Monaco so underrated?! I might just be too poor to even have it on my radar as a travel destination.
Seriously. God bless this casting director.
Cons: Selena Gomez’s acting. Selena Gomez’s fake British accent. The fact that I will never be mistaken for an heiress and have a whirlwind romance with a foreign wealthy man.
Most memorable lines:
Grace: I finally meet a guy who likes me for me. And I’m not even me.
THE PRINCESS SWITCH
(VANESSA HUDGENS, 2018)
So here we are in present day. Let me just start by saying, there isn’t even a princess in this movie. Lady Margaret is a duchess. It’s called royal decorum honey, look it up. Stacy, a baker from Chicago, is somehow invited to this very prestigious international baking competition in Genovia Aldovia Belgravia (is anyone else noticing that these fake European countries all kind of sound like font families?), and ditches her bakery during what I assume would be her busiest time of the year to hop across the world with her business partner/ best friend and his daughter. There she runs into Lady Margaret, who mysteriously looks exactly like her and proposes they swap places so she can get away from the world of schedules. Stacy agrees, and falls for Margaret’s fiance of an arranged marriage/ loveless engagement, Prince Edward of Belgravia. Meanwhile Margaret falls for Stacy’s DILF friend Kevin. They manage to swap back before Stacy’s competition (which she wins despite her competitor cutting the cord to her Kitchen Aid, which she only notices after the majority of the cake has been baked, which like, b*tch, how were you mixing the batter before?), only for the Prince and Margaret to have to present the awards to the winners (because like, I’m sure that’s how William and Kate fill their schedule). Though Margaret had revealed their secret to Edward before the event, the four go backstage to give Kevin the downlow. Stacy is alarmingly okay with Edward (sort of) proposing to her, and Kevin is alarmingly okay with this despite having JUST caught feelings for who he thought was his best friend? Flash forward to a year later, and Edward and Stacy have married, and it is implied Kevin and Margaret are next? What the hell happened to their award winning bakery?
Pros: Gunner from Nashville. Kevin’s abs.
Cons: The haircut. The Jackie O blazer and pencil skirt ensembles. Another ill fated horse riding trip. The mysterious old guy who kept showing up but whose presence/ significance was never really explained?
Seriously, why is everyone dressed straight outta 1952?
Most memorable line:
Stacy/Margaret: In fact I took a nap on it. Slept like a log.
Edward: A log?
Stacy/ Margaret: Yes, dear, a royal log. It’s an expression we have in Montenaro.
Over the passage of time, the same-actress-two-characters/ swapping identities plotline has served us some of our most heartwarming and cheesy memories of film. I honestly don’t know if there really is a way to rank which is best, because they are all terrible in their own right. What matters most is that this tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme seems to keep going strong 20 years later, so we can expect another version of this more-or-less same story to make us gag/dazzle us in the coming years.