(Joe Nussbaum, USA, 2004)


Cute comedies aimed at thirteen-year-old girls tend to be unfairly relegated to the bottom rung of pop culture. This means that Joe Nussbaum's Sleepover will receive even less attention than Catch That Kid (2004), marketed to thirteen-year-old boys, or the Spy Kids series, which tries to appeal across both genders and several niche markets.

Alexa Vega from Spy Kids takes centre stage here as Julie. Although her daily teen life takes in a familiar spray of anxieties – performance at school, over-controlling parents, anxieties about not being part of the cool gang – Sleepover is not a teen movie with pretensions to seriousness, like Mean Girls (2004).

Nor, despite superficial similarities between the night-on-the-town premise of Sleepover and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004), does Nussbaum ever approach the trash comedy genre.

Not much sleeping takes place. Instead, Julie and her friends (played by Mika Boorem and Kallie Glynn Childress) are cajoled into sneaking out of home and engaging in a game that involves collecting certain trophies – such as the underpants of a particularly hunky guy, Steve (Sean Faris). A decent twist occurs when Julie, in the course of her night, spies her usually uptight mother, Gabby (Jane Lynch), dancing wildly atop a club table.

Despite a tantalising scene where, hidden in a shower recess, Julie gets a peek at a naked Steve, Sleepover displays an effortless grasp of the kind of early-teen innocence that has filled movies since Gidget (1959). This is mixed with just enough misbehaviour necessary to keep the plot moving.

Anyone with a fondness for the John Hughes teen movies of the '80s will enjoy the parade of pop songs, daggy dancing and reckless, homemade fashions.

Overall, Sleepover is a modest but winning combination of dreamy romantic fantasy, slapstick and girl-power resourcefulness, with just a touch of the Cinderella fairy-tale that became de rigueur in the pop culture of 2004, via A Cinderella Story and Enchanted Ella.

© Adrian Martin October 2004

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
home    reviews    essays    search