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Wish Upon a Star

With a title like Wish Upon a Star, you'd think this family-friendly comedy about two teenage sisters (no, not the Olsen twins) who swap bodies came straight from the Mouse House. And while the movie isn't that different from many of the straight-to-TV flicks the Disney Channel broadcasts these days, it does have one distinct advantage — its stars can act. As Alexia and Hayley Wheadon, Katherine Heigl and Danielle Harris are appealing and believable, despite the fact that their characters start out as almost-cartoonish stereotypes. Alexia (Heigl) is a pretty, pampered 17-year-old high school goddess à la Cher in Clueless (the fashions are reminiscent of that Alicia Silverstone classic too, which isn't surprising since Wish was made a year after Clueless debuted in 1995). Fifteen-year-old Hayley (Harris), on the other hand, is a science-loving tomboy who's never seen a baggy pair of pants she didn't like. She's happy — and the movie doesn't look down on her, which is nice — but she can't help envying Alexia's looks, and particularly her cute boyfriend Kyle (Don Jeffcoat). So when Hayley spots a shooting star while studying for her astronomy test one night, she wishes with all her heart that she could be her beautiful, popular sister — and thanks to the magic of the movies, her wish comes true. It's after the switch that Harris and Heigl really shine; Heigl in particular does a great job of playing Hayley-as-Alexia, her every shy smile and awkward gesture making it obvious that another girl is living inside the beauty queen's body. The girls' performances make it easy to ignore the fact that the rest of the movie's plot is pretty predictable (they fight, they learn to understand each other, they bond, they try to switch back, etc., etc.), and that all of the other characters are ridiculous, from the battle-axe principal (Lois Chiles) to Alexia and Hayley's meek psychologist parents (Scott Wilkinson and Mary Parker Williams). All in all, you could definitely do worse in picking a movie for the "tween" set (hear that, Mary Kate and Ashley?). Wish Upon a Star looks good on Columbia TriStar's DVD — the digitally mastered full-screen transfer is strong, and the Dolby 2.0 Surround audio is plenty adequate. Features include an earnest, enthusiastic commentary track by director Blair Treu and writer Jessica Barondes, filmographies for Heigl and Harris, and trailers for other preteen-friendly movies on DVD. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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