Wish Upon a Star (1996)

Wish Upon a Star (1996)

Wish Upon a Star was written by Jessica Barondes and directed by Blair Treu for Leucadia Film Corporation in Utah. Disney Channel aired this movie reasonably often from 1998/1999 through August 2002, per Disney Channel Broadcast Archive. After 2002, Wish Upon a Star appears to have never aired on Disney again. This film hits a sweet spot between the (often) more serious Disney Channel Premiere Films/miniseries before it and the DCOMs that immediately followed it.

Wish Upon a Star is a true teen movie, all about well-off sisters who wish they could live each other’s lives. Alexia Wheaton (Katherine Heigl) wears fashionable miniskirts and always has a boyfriend. Hayley Wheaton (Danielle Harris) focuses on math and science and hangs out in oversized t-shirts. Their parents, Ben and Nan, read Psychology Today and seem to be either psychologists or psychiatrists. They are frustrated with Alexia’s flippant behavior and supposed lack of substance. They decided to use reverse psychology and let her do whatever she wants, hoping it will spur her on towards better choices. She is the leader of a popular posse and has created a ridiculous set of rules for the group — no tuna at lunch, no dating someone for more than three months, no stubble on your legs, apparently.

Hayley is the opposite, sticking her used bubblegum on the nearest surface and rushing Alexia out the door to get to school on time. Alexia has a handsome boyfriend named Kyle (Donnie Jeffcoat, who played a bad boy named Michael Towner on 7th Heaven). Alexia’s biggest priority is winning the crown for the Winter Festival. She also wants an academic recommendation from her stern school headmaster. Hayley desperately wants to earn a chance to compete in an upcoming science fair. After one day in their actual bodies, we see just Hayley wish on a shooting star to switch places, while Alexia is in the hot tub with Kyle. Later, we find out that Alexia wished to be her sister, too. For much of the film, Alexia and Hayley are bent on sabotaging one another via the switch, not realizing that their actions could have lasting consequences for their success in high school and beyond. In Alexia’s body, Hayley wears dirty clothes to school (for the Winter Festival court’s picture day). In Hayley’s body, Alexia chooses to dress as a dominatrix, singing and dancing on the cafeteria tables. The siblings leave some choice words for one another on the mirror in the ladies’ restroom, too (calling each other wenches).

These girls eventually comprehend that they need to be a united front if they are to switch back peacefully. Hayley helps Alexia with math; Alexia gives Hayley some fashion and dating tips. They go from making fun of one another to giggling on a blanket under the stars, and it’s very sweet. As expected with a body-swapping movie, the sisters walk a few days in each other’s literal shoes and come to appreciate one another much more. Their looks for the Winter Festival, fully restored to their own bodies, are gorgeous. If you ever liked the Moonpools & Caterpillars, definitely watch this to the end, since they’re the featured performers at the school festival. Romantically speaking, you’d thinking Hayley would be the one to end up with Kyle, since they got along so well when she was in Alexia’s body. However, Alexia encourages Hayley to give the new neighbor boy a try.

There are so many memorable moments in this movie, but I think Hayley (really Alexia) staying home from school and eating ice cream is a good one — aside from the fact that she’s not used to the ice cream because in her normal Alexia body, she goes on crash diets. I don’t like the harmful dieting in this movie; Alexia’s supposed to subsist on a “fruits and veggies only” regimen. I do love the part when Alexia (actually Hayley) throws pennies down the toilet to try to reverse the wish. I also think it’s interesting that there’s a full discussion about sex, and I’d imagine Disney Channel might have cut that part, but I don’t recall. As I remember my elementary school self watching this film, I think about how cool these girls were to me. They probably seemed so much older, too. While I can’t imagine the kind of “risque” content in this movie ever playing on Disney Channel again, it was a fun moment in time to be a ’90s baby and see a teenage Katherine Heigl with her frosty lipstick smiling back at you. It was several years after seeing Wish Upon a Star that I actually knew who she was, but I knew she was cool! There are numerous options for streaming this film to relive the magic of the shooting star. And look for Mark Hofeling, legendary DCOM designer, who also plays a teacher in the movie.

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