This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wish Upon a Star (1996)

"Me? I'm Alexia. Alexia Wheaton."

-Hayley Wheaton.

I don't know exactly which was the first movie involving two people who find they now inhabit different bodies, but the first one I remember seeing is Freaky Friday (1977), a delightful Disney comedy in which Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster play a mother & daughter who don't see eye to eye but learn to love and appreciate each other more when, one Friday the 13th, they simultaneously wish each was the other-and get their wish. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that it got remade in 2003, but the only saving grace of that version was Jamie Lee Curtis's funny work as the mother (I always thought it was cool that Clarice Starling was the daughter in the original and Laurie Strode was the mom in the remake).

Although Friday may not have been the first film of its type (heck, the final episode of the original Star Trek series has Kirk swapping bodies with one of his former flames as part of her plot to command the Enterprise), it seems to have become the most influential as most other films since with a simliar theme have used the device for comedy; the best of the lot being the wonderful Tom Hanks comedy Big (1988). A unique variation on this theme, though, was Face-Off (1997), a jolting, exciting thriller in which John Travolta is a detective who switches places with his son's murderer, played by Nicholas Cage.

Wish Upon a Star, which premiered on the Disney channel (back when there was only one), takes the comedic route. Alexia Wheaton (Katherine Heigl) is the self-absorbed reigning beauty queen of her high school. She's more concerned with her looks than her studies. Her younger sister Hayley (Danielle Harris) is her opposite. She's a shy girl who's moving up in the academic world.

One night, Hayley sees a shooting star and, observing Alexia with her boyfriend Kyle (Don Jeffcoat), whom Hayley secretly loves, makes a wish that she was Alexia.

Perhaps the film's funniest scene is when both girls wake up the next morning and scream upon viewing each other in the bathroom. It doesn't take long, though, before Hayley views this as a chance to get close to Kyle and experience the glamor of her sister's life, while Alexia hates being in what she calls "this measley, little body" and unsuccessfully attempts to get the wish reversed.

When Alexia discovers that Hayley experienced her first kiss with Kyle, she attempts to get even the next day by dressing provocatively at school, to which Hayley retailates by making out with Kyle in front of the whole student body.

Their behavior shocks both their psychologist parents (Scott Wilkinson and Mary Parker Williams) and their stern principal (and former policewoman) Miss Mittermiller (Lois Chiles), who promptly disciplines them. This prompts the sisters to stop their feud and actually remain in the other's bodies a little longer in order for Hayley to improve Alexia's grades and Alexia to help Hayley in matters of romance, specifically with their shy neighbor, Simon (Matt Barker).

This film is certainly not perfect. Alexia reveals that she broke up with Kyle the night before the body switch but he seems a bit too willing to take her back. Likewise, when the sisters return to their original bodies, I always wondered why it occurred immediately after their wish when the inital switch took overnight.

However, this is still a sweet film, mainly because the two lead actresses are clearly having fun. Heigl and Harris are both engaging. This was before Heigl became a big star (which eventually segued into her playing the same character in the same kind of romantic comedy over and over again). Its most touching moment occurs when Alexia reveals their switch was made possible due to her wishing she was Hayley,because of her sister's clear focus of where she was heading, at the same time Hayley made her wish.

Although their parents may leave a bit to be desired in the parenting department (they decide to adapt a hands-off approach to parenting after the switch occurs), it's easy to like both Alexia and Hayley Wheaton.

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