- Jul 6, 2003
Sleepover: Special Edition
Running Time: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: English, Cantonese, French, Mandarin, and Spanish
Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1; French & Spanish – Stereo Surround
November 23rd, 2004
Thanks Hollywood, Sleepover is just what we needed – yet another movie about a group of young misfits trying to overcome obstacles thrown their way by heartless and cruel “popular” kids. :eyeroll: And just what is it that these misfits are working so very hard to do? Why join their tormentors’ ranks, of course, so they can eventually become just as shallow and self-absorbed! And this, my friends, is the premise for the film Sleepover, which is not only extremely predictable, unfunny, and clichéd, but imparts the wrong message to youngsters – that it is permissible to do dangerous or downright stupid things if they are done in the name of good clean fun.
Good, now that I am through ranting, let’s get down to business…the film opens with the unpopular Julie (Alexa Vega) inviting three equally unpopular friends: Hannah (Mika Boorem), Farrah (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Yancy (Kallie Flynn Childress), over for a sleepover to both celebrate their last day of junior high and send Hannah, who is moving away, off properly. Coincidentally, this sleepover is to occur on the same night of a big high school dance they all wish they were going to. By the way, the reasons the girls are unpopular are something of a mystery, since they all appear to be cute and spunky to me. Whatever…since no reasons are given, I suppose it is best to just accept what is presented without burning out too many brain cells trying to figure it out.
Moving along, it is obvious that this mundane soirée is not enough to make a film out of, so the filmmakers fabricated a conflict between the four wallflowers and a group of rival “cool” girls. The fun begins when a hypocritical cheerleader named Staci (Sara Paxton) challenges her former best friend Julie and her “unpopular” friends to complete a scavenger hunt. Since Julie and her pals do not want to enter high school as outcasts, they hastily agree to the evil Staci’s challenge.
Apparently, where you sit at lunch in this particular school has a big impact on people’s perception of you, so the teams are set to battle for choice lunchtime seating. The winners get to stake their claim on the coveted spot by a fountain, while the losers will be forced to eat with the dweebs next to the trashcans for the entire school year. Unfortunately for our heroines, Julie’s mom, Gabby (Jane Lynch), who is out for the night, has made it clear that the girls are not to leave the house, or she will not be able go on the upcoming family trip to Hawaii.
Yeah, sure, as if a verbal warning from a parent is going to be enough to deter four young girls desperate to be popular from trying to leave the house...even though Julie’s lame, oblivious dad (Jeff Garlin) and college dropout older brother (Sam Huntington) are lurking about the premises. In any case, you already know the girls will break the rules, so I might as well tell you (in part) what the scavenger hunt consists of. Some of the items on the list include sneaking into dance club to have someone buy them a drink, screwing around with mannequins in a shopping mall, and breaking into a “plush” guy’s (Sean Faris) house to make off with a pair of his underwear. As if that is not enough, the quartet of misfits must also crash a school dance and steal the queen’s crown. This is just me, but these are definitely not the kinds of stupid/potentially dangerous things I would want my daughters doing to become popular.
As the contest begins, and Julie and company sneak out to gather the items required for the scavenger hunt, a series of close calls is set in motion, with the girls nearly getting busted at every turn. And while they try desperately to keep from being found out, the girls’ progress is slowed by, among other things, an overzealous rent-a-cop (Steve Carell), a group of skaters, and a cramped, ugly, and impractical (but environmentally friendly ) “borrowed” electric vehicle that tends to quit at the most inopportune time.
As you can see, there is a lot going on in this film, but unfortunately, the way things are executed results in almost no suspense or doubt as to what will happen next. As a result, whatever fun could have been found in this movie is sapped right out of it. In large part, this is because director Joe Nussbaum telegraphs each and every plot twist, not to mention ineffectively carrying out scenes designed to get a laugh.
And what film like this would be complete without neatly package life lessons for its characters, so they will value friends, family, and themselves more by the film’s end, and not worry so much about what others think of them? Much to my irritation, and the detriment of the film, Mr. Nussbaum remembered to include them, as well as the obligatory heroine falls in love and wins the cute guy’s heart / neglected overweight kid gets attention elements of the plot.
Yet another issue for me was that the film has a couple of sequences that were intended to be funny, but instead come off as somewhat bizarre and almost disturbing (on a small scale, anyway). One such scene that comes to mind is when Julie is chatted up by one of her teachers during the girls’ nightclub infiltration. To be fair, the guy did think she was his date (set up by an Internet dating site), but it would be real obvious to anyone not sauced out of their mind that Julie (aka June) is 15-years-old at most. Sick! Being a 30-year-old male, I know I am way outside of the target audience for this film, but even looking at it as objectively as I possibly can, I think the misguided attempts at humor like this, and the horrendous, slang-heavy dialogue made what was already a bad movie even worse.
It is not that I think Mr. Nussbaum, who directed the awesome short film “George Lucas in Love”, does not have talent, but it is just not on display in this film, which is really too bad. Indeed, about the only positive thing I can think of when mulling over Sleepover are the charismatic performances by Alexa Vega (of Spy Kids fame) and Mika Boorem (Blue Crush). Unfortunately, the other actors are not nearly as inspired, particularly the awful Sam Huntington, Scout Taylor-Compton and Kallie Flynn Childress, all of which are almost incapable of delivering a line. Moreover, no amount of charisma or energy, both of which Vega and Boorem display ample amounts of, can offset the dreadful writing.
Speaking of the writing, it seems as though screenwriter Elisa Bell lifted ideas from too many other films in this genre, but none of them hit the mark. Another glaring inadequacy is that Ms. Bell appears to have made no serious attempt to create develop any of the characters in this film. The same goes for the relationships between characters (even between family members), which are almost completely superficial. Lastly, the drivel that Bell gave these cardboard characters to say makes it obvious to me that she spent even less time trying to come up with meaningful dialogue than she did on establishing these characters or their relationships.
To be brutally honest, I really cannot imagine anyone but young pre-teen girls liking this movie at all, as not only are the characters poorly written, but each and every one also falls neatly into a stereotype. Frankly, we have all seen this material and these characters before, down to the last insecure teen and oblivious parent, only the results are usually much better. In my opinion, this film simply asks far too much of the audience, in terms of suspending disbelief, as in addition to all I have mentioned above, there are more coincidences here (in a single night) than there were in the entire series of Three’s Company. Unless you are a female under the age of 13, or are looking for something dull to cure your insomnia, do yourself a favor and steer clear of Sleepover!
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Presented by MGM in a 16x9 enhanced widescreen (1.85:1) format, Sleepover looks every bit as bright and shiny as it should. Colors are bold, vivid, and crisply reproduced, with only the slightest amount of bleed. As such, the deep red dress Alexa Vega wears, and the bright primaries and pastels present throughout the film really “pop”. Flesh tones have a similarly warm and natural appearance, with the subtle differences between the skin tones of the characters readily apparent.
Whites are clean and noise-free, and black level is also solid, leading to excellent shadow delineation during more sparsely illuminated portions of the girls’ nighttime adventure. Fine detail is also quite impressive, often extending well into the background of the shot, and revealing even small imperfections in the girls’ complexions during close-ups. The print is also very clean, un-intruded upon by all but the occasional speck. Finally, if there are any traces of edge enhancement or compression-based artifacts present, I did not see them.
To sum things up, this is a very good visual presentation of Sleepover, not that most of the ‘tweens this film is geared for will care. My girls…well, if I have anything to say about it, when they are old enough to watch this, they will understand the various aspects of image quality enough to realize that there is a lot to like about this particular transfer!!!
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
The 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtrack for Sleepover is your garden variety ‘tween comedy soundtrack, and presents the source material in a serviceable, if unspectacular fashion. The best part is that dialogue is reproduced cleanly, without any obvious deficiencies, and every word can be heard without difficulty. Frequency response is also fine, and the highs don’t appear to be rolled off very much, so the voices of the many adolescent females in the film sound about as they should.
As is the case with most films of this type, there is a minimal amount of surround use. For the most part, the surrounds channels present ambient noise and provide some subtle reinforcement to the music in the film. Unfortunately, even during scenes that take place in crowded school hallways and nightclubs, most of the sound comes from the front of the listening space, so I think the rears could have been used more effectively, to create a better sense of realism in these busy environments. Similarly, the LFE channel is used sparingly, mainly to provide a bit of support to the pop-rock soundtrack and a few of the film’s sound effects. Bass response is somewhat underwhelming overall though.
All things considered, this is a decent soundtrack, and it suits the source material fine. There are a few areas that leave a bit to be desired, and personally, I think a slightly more aggressive approach to the mix, particularly with respect to the surrounds would have gone a long way. As is the case with the video, however, I suspect that few if any of the young people this film is aimed at will really care.
The feature-length audio commentary, by Joel Nussbaum, Mika Boorem, Alexa Vega, Scout Taylor-Compton, and Kallie Flynn Childress has a tendency to be a little busy, and it is also somewhat screen specific. However, all five participants are really enthusiastic speakers, which makes the track an easy listen, and enough information about the production is provided to make it worth a listen if you liked the film.
Of course, most of the information provided is fairly typical (brief discussions about the locations, the casting process, problems experienced on the set, and so on), not to mention suited to the target audience, but a variety of amusing behind-the-scenes stories are told as well. I guess if you can get past the four girls repeatedly talking about how hot particular guys are, and you enjoyed the film, you’ll have a good time with this commentary. Then again, if you really dig this film, you will probably be listening to this commentary specifically to hear which guys Alexa, Mika, Scout, and Callie think are hot. To that end, be sure to listen for Mika Boorem’s thoughts about the casting of Sam Huntington. She even makes an obscure Jungle to Jungle reference, which (sadly) caused me to remember that I have seen that film!
A Guide To The Perfect Sleepover
The “Guide”, which runs for nearly 11 minutes, is a featurette on the making of Sleepover, consisting chiefly of interviews with key cast and crewmembers. For instance, Joe Nussbaum and Elisa Bell talk about how the original idea for the film came about, as well as how it was subsequently developed. The principal cast then discusses their characters, what it was like to work with each other, and how they did some of their own stunts.
It is certainly not the deepest “making of” featurette, but I think the running time and level of detail are appropriate for the target audience. As such, I believe that most of said audience will enjoy it.
Meet The Girls
This bonus feature allows viewers to select from four profiles (one each) on cast members Alexa Vega, Mika Boorem, Scout Taylor-Compton, and Kallie Flynn Childress. Upon doing so, viewers will see a 1 ½ - 2 minute piece where Joe Nussbaum and Elisa Bell talks about the qualities each girl brought to the movie, and the girls themselves speak about their characters and share some stories from the set.
Ready, Set, Action!
This supplement to Sleepover is a gag reel of sorts, consisting of approximately 1 ½ minutes of behind-the-scenes footage of the cast engaging in a wide variety of activities.
During this 3 ½ minute featurette, the cast briefly discusses a few of their personal sleepover experiences, as well as the way they worked around the overpriced water at the hotel they had a cast sleepover in.
The “Gag Reel” is fairly typical stuff, consisting of over 5 minutes worth of bloopers and line flubs, many of them repeated.
The photo gallery contains 41 production stills, including some good shots of the four friends that are the film’s protagonists.
This hidden featurette, which can be found by highlighting “Ready, Set, Action!” on the Special Features Menu and pressing left
, contains another 3-minute gag/highlight reel, as well as congratulations from Alexa Vega for finding the Easter Egg.
The original theatrical trailer for Sleepover is included.
The disc kicks off with promos for Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde, Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, and Hi 5, as are:
Trailers for: Uptown Girls, Good Boy!, Agent Cody Banks, Legally Blonde, and The Legend of Johnny Lingo.
Cover Art for: A Guy Thing, Heartbreakers, The Crocodile Hunter, Recipe for Disaster.
(on a five-point scale)
Film: :star: 1/2
Video: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Audio: :star: :star: :star: 1/2
Extras: :star: :star: :star: 1/2
Overall: :star: :star: :star:
THE LAST WORD
Joe Nussbaum’s Sleepover is a terrible film, filled with poorly executed comedy, clichéd situations, awful dialogue, and paper-thin characters that most people will find it difficult to care about. As I mentioned above, I have a hard time believing that anyone outside of the audience this film was obviously intended for will find anything of redeeming quality in it, perhaps with the exception of the energetic performances by Alexa Vega and Mika Boorem.
Fortunately (and this only applies if you are in said target audience), this DVD is pretty darn good. To begin with, the visuals are slick, and although it won’t really push sound systems too hard, dialogue, sound effects, and the pop-rock soundtrack are all reproduced nicely. Personally, I think the surrounds could have been used a little more, but I doubt most of those in Sleepover’s demographic will care about that in the least.
The disc also contains a generous helping of extras, including an audio commentary and several behind-the-scenes featurettes. Although the commentary is decent, like the film, most of these superfluous extras will not be of interest to non-females above the age of 13 or so, but they should keep fans of the film busy for a little while.
I will close by repeating myself (and forgive me for that), by saying that unless you are a female under the age of 13, or are looking for something dull to fall asleep to, do yourself a favor and make an excuse to turn down the invitation to this Sleepover!