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SLEEPOVER

SYNOPSIS:
In the summer before they are due to start high school, Julie (Alexa Vega) organises a slumber party with her friends Hannah (Mika Boorem), Yancy (Kallie Flynn Childress) and Farrah (Scout Taylor-Compton). Although Julie promises her mother (Jane Lynch) not to leave the house, the girls get caught up in a scavenger hunt organised by Stacie (Sara Paxton) the leader of a more popular group of girls, and wind up racing all around town in a quest for various trophies including the boxer shorts of Steve (Sean Faris) the boy Julie loves from afar.

Review by Jake Wilson:
I feel a little weird saying this, but I was really looking forward to Sleepover. Maybe I can cover my tracks by citing the conceptual appeal of a plot that packs its key events into a few hours. Unity of space and time, after all, is a principle that worked for the ancient Greeks, not to mention Agnès Varda and Joe Dante. But leaving that aside, I can't deny the appeal of sharing imaginatively in the life of a group of teenage girls, whose innocent, feverish pleasures include dancing, toenail painting, and fantasising about the high school boys just out of reach.

Of course Sleepover is a piece of hokum, but it's also a "documentary" portrait of the charm and energy of its young actresses (mainly Alexa Vega, of Spy Kids fame, and Mika Boorem). And though this PG fairyfloss may seem a far cry from the girls-gone-wild exposé that was Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen, the filmmakers are equally upfront about the motivations of their heroine, notably when she hides in the bathroom and watches her object of desire disrobe (his boxers drop; cut to her wide-eyed gaze). While this scene too is innocent enough in context, it's a little perturbing to realise that the film is aimed less at girls of Alexa's age than their younger sisters, the "tweens" who experiment with makeup and sing along to Britney Spears.

"I'm not a girl, not yet a woman", sings Britney; but surely these kids are just kids? Some would say, capitalism persuades children to view themselves as sex objects in order to enrol them faster in the cargo cult of the market. I wouldn't argue with that, but there are aspects of Sleepover that bother me more. For example, the fact that it's not a very good movie. The wisecracks are feeble, the slapstick lacks style, and the plot is baldly reliant on coincidence and formula. Worst of all are the repressive moral messages, which reek of the snobbery and meanness they pretend to oppose. It's tempting to vomit when the fat girl learns that if she accepts her second-rate status, there might be a charming fat guy waiting just for her (never mind that he looks about twenty and his interest could get him arrested).

Admittedly, one minor character is allowed his moment of glory: the wild-eyed skateboarder (Evan Peters) who grabs the chance to show off his zany but undeniably funky moves. At this single point, the film shows itself capable of the generosity associated with the traditional comic happy ending, where feuds are forgotten and everyone dances together. Then it's back to the premise that success means popularity and triumphing over your rivals. The film implies that "succeeding" in this sense is what being an adult is truly about (even sex is a side issue at best). Maybe that's why Alexa Vega cries when she says goodbye to her best friend and her childhood. Her tears look real enough. I'd be crying too.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

SLEEPOVER (G)
(US)

CAST: Alexa Vega, Mika Boorem, Jane Lynch, Sam Huntington, Sara Paxton

PRODUCER: Bob Cooper, Robert Cooper, Charles Weinstoc

DIRECTOR: Joe Nussbaum

SCRIPT: Elissa Bell

CINEMATOGRAPHER: James L. Carter

EDITOR: Craig Herring

MUSIC: Deborah Lurie

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen McCabe

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 7, 2004

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: MGM

VIDEO RELEASE: January 19, 2005







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