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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Wish Upon A Star (1996)

"You might have my body, my breasts and my boyfriend, but you're not me!"
- Hayley, as Alexia (Danielle Harris)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: August 20, 2001

Stars: Katherine Heigl, Danielle Harris
Other Stars: Don Jeffcoat, Lois Chiles, Scott Wilkinson, Mary Parker Williams
Director: Blair Treu

MPAA Rating: PG for (language and sensuality)
Run Time: 01h:29m:27s
Release Date: August 21, 2001
UPC: 043396072619
Genre: family


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B BC+B B

DVD Review

Wish Upon A Star uses that tried-and-true, wacky plot convention of two characters switching bodies, and though this has been done to death in the past, makes it work surprisingly well. Who hasn't, at some point in their life, fantasized about trading places with someone else? Maybe it was that popular kid in school, the one with ALL the friends. Or maybe it was with that secure, free-spirit who seemed to have it all together. It's that simple desire to shed your own skin and become someone else that drives a film like this, director Blair Treu's 1996 effort.

In the case of Wish Upon A Star, it's two sisters who make the big switch. Hayley (Danielle Harris) is the brainy, grubby high school sophomore, while senior Alexia (Katherine Heigl) is the snotty, mini-skirted, gorgeous older sister. Hayley and Alexia fight constantly in that typical troubled sibling relationship, and their well-meaning but clueless psychologist parents (Scott Wilkinson and Mary Parker Williams) adopt an experimental hands-off approach to attempt to solve the problem.

In Hayley's eyes, Alexia has it all. With her beautiful clothes, great body, and hunky boyfriend Kyle (Don Jeffcoat), Alexia secretly represents something seemingly unattainable to young Hayley. In a magical moment, while studying the stars in her backyard as Alexia lounges in a hottub with Kyle, Hayley makes a wish on a shooting star that she could become Alexia. Without fail, the wish comes true and with Hayley now in Alexia's body, and vice versa, the primary plot conflict is set.

There are plenty of opportunities for comedy, and the smart script by Jessica Barondes mines these wonderfully. Her dialogue is witty, without being unrealistic, and she moves the two main characters into fun situations that allow Hayley and Alexia to experience a completely different lifestyle, while of course ultimately helping the two become closer. I will even forgive some the nitpicky inconsistencies in the wish fulfillment logic that bookends the film because the overall story was entertaining.

The main reason Wish Upon A Star works so well is Katherine Heigl (Roswell) and Danielle Harris (Urban Legend). Doing a similar body-switch schtick that John Travolta and Nicholas Cage did in Face/Off, Heigl and Harris believably manage to convey the switch between Alexia and Hayley. Heigl makes the physical transition from bitchy, teenaged sexpot to fresh-scrubbed innocent easily enough, and she gets to struggle comedically with learning to walk in heels and drive, things the 'real' Alexia already knows how to do. Harris has the hardest role, moving from being the tomboy little sister to the frantic, sexy sister trapped in a 15-year-old's body. Her manic directions on how the new Alexia should dress and act is actually pretty funny. Heigl and Harris both carry themselves differently as their characters change roles, and if this were not done effectively, the film could easily fail.

As expected in this genre, the two sisters learn valuable lessons as they experience their new lives. By the time the predictable happy-crappy conclusion has arrived, Wish Upon A Star had managed to provide some genuine laughs and a lesson that it's not what's on the outside that matters. This is a family film that doesn't pander too low, while still providing a nice message.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Columbia TriStar presents Wish Upon A Star in the original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The print is clean of nicks and scratches, and the color palette is crisp and vibrant. Fleshtones—and there is plenty of leg and belly in this film—remains true throughout and the color balance is excellent. There are, however, some apparent edge enhancement issues.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: A solitary 2-channel Dolby Surround mix is the extent of the audio options. Despite the lack of a 5.1 mix, Columbia TriStar has provided a more than adequate audio transfer. Rear channel effects are primarily music cues, with sporadic ambient sound also present. The film's score sounds full, and even with the limitations of 2-channel mix, the dialogue is always crisp and clear.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Babysitter's Club, Hook, Jumanji, Spice World
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Blair Treu, writer Jessica Barondes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Limited extra material, but the quality is better than expected. It's no secret that I love commentaries, and a scene-specific commentary by director Blair Treu and screenwriter Jessica Barondes is the real surprise here. A couple of fairly effervescent speakers, Treu and Barondes offer a lot of the standard production background tidbits, as well as describing their interpretations of how certain scenes did or didn't work as well as intended. At one point Barondes discusses a couple of deleted scenes that further developed some of Hayley's character, and I wish those would have been included on the disc.

No trailer for the feature, but the disc does include four others (The Babysitter's Club, Hook, Jumanji, and Spice World).

28 chapter stops, and the always helpful English and Spanish subtitles cap off the supplementals.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Wish Upon A Star really surprised me. I was expecting a badly done, made-for-TV family film, and instead I found it to be a funny and engaging experience. As an added bonus, Columbia TriStar has included an informative commentary by director Blair Treu and writer Jessica Barondes.

Recommended for families, especially those with girls in that 10- to 13-year-old range. Boys would probably appreciate it, too, since the two leads are extremely cute.

 


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