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Wish Upon a Star
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wish Upon a Star is a 1996 family comedy about two high school teenage sisters who switch bodies. There is sensuality throughout the movie, both girls dress provocatively, and some light kissing scenes, as well as one striptease-style dance in the cafeteria. The somewhat mature handling of sex, making out, and sensuality make it most appropriate for younger teens and up.
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What's the story?
Alexia Wheaton (Katherine Heigl) is a boy-crazy fashionista; sister Hayley (Danielle Harrison) is a brainy slacker. They couldn't be more different, yet Hayley longs for her older sister's popularity, jock boyfriend, beauty, and easier life. When she wishes upon a shooting star and wakes up the next morning in the body of Alexia, she thinks she's got it made, until she begins to realize what she's giving up.
Is it any good?
WISH UPON A STAR works an appealing but somewhat overdone premise. What would happen if you could trade places with someone with a better life than you, even for a few days? Movies like Big, 13 Going on 30, and Freaky Friday all trafficked in the same what-if scenario to better results, but Wish Upon a Star is not entirely without its charms. Here, Heigl and Harrison have good chemistry, and having them both long for the same boyfriend and ultimately forced to appreciate each other's strengths and weaknesses makes for some nice insights into sibling rivalry and grass-is-greener thinking about other's lives.
Unfortunately, it falls a bit into stereotypes about being smart versus being popular or fashionable, and because the camera spends so much time literally panning Heigl's body in mini-skirts, and because her looks, and the affections of her boyfriend and dressing in a risque way becomes such a routine part of the plot (which involves a lot of kissing, some welcomed catcalls, and a striptease-style dance), it moves the material into a more mature zone. The main performances aren't bad (though nearly all supporting roles are forgettable), the messages are ultimately positive, but parents may feel a little bit uncomfortable with the frequent literal zoning in on Heigl at the expense of more substance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stereotypes. What were some of the recurring stereotypes you saw in the film? How true are they in your experience? How might the movie have portrayed the girls differently without stereotyping them?
What made the sisters ultimately appreciate the other person's perspective? How can we do this in real life without having to actually trade bodies?
An interesting point in the film is that we can even stereotype people we actually know. Have you ever done this? What was the stereotype, and how did you realize you were wrong about the person?
- In theaters: November 12, 1996
- On DVD or streaming: January 1, 2002
- Cast: Katherine Heigl, Danielle Harris
- Director: Blair Treu
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, High School
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Rated PG for language and mild sensuality.
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