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Sleepover
2004 - PG - 90 Mins.
Director: Joe Nussbaum
Producer: Bob Cooper, Charles Weinstock
Written By: Elisa Bell
Starring: Alexa Vega, Mika Boorem, Scout Taylor-Compton, Kallie-Flynn Childress, Jeff Garlin, Sam Huntington, Steve Carell
Review by: Joe Rickey
   

Is that supposed to be water?
A surprise in a summer not exactly full of them; ‘Sleepover’ is one spry and charmingly goofy kids movie that successfully entertains not only its target audience but adults as well. Call it this summer’s ‘Freaky Friday’ or not, but the film is full of good performances and more wit than one could expect in such a film.

As a way of celebrating the end of middle school and the eventual beginning of high school, Julie (Alexa Vega of ‘Spy Kids’) decides to hold a sleepover with three of her closest friends: Hannah (Mika Boorem), Yancy (Kallie Flynn Childress), and Farrah (Scout Taylor-Compton). The celebration though is bittersweet for Julie and Hannah. You see, Hannah is moving to Vancouver, Canada the day after the party. While they are beginning the party upstairs in Julie’s room, her dad (Jeff Garlin) is attempting to fix the water faucet and having little luck doing so, thanks in no part to his super-duper lazy son (Sam Huntington) who quit college because it was simply “Too hard.”

As the night progresses, the girls receive a challenge from another clique of girls who call themselves “The Pleathers” (perhaps an ode to another famous clique of girls - the Heathers?) The challenge is a scavenger hunt composed of various sundry items. The reward? Prized cafeteria real estate - a lunch table deemed “The Fountain” while the losers are relegated to a table near a dumpster. In order to complete the challenge, Julie and her friends will have to avoid an overly ambitious security guard, played hilariously by Steve Carell ( who happens to be costarring in ‘Anchorman’ this very weekend).

The film takes this rather simple set-up and runs with it; mostly to great effect. The pacing is firecracker fast; the film is not ten minutes in and the titular sleepover and ensuing mayhem is already in motion. The film’s plot allows for a multitude of comedic set-pieces and wacky supporting characters and situations, and ‘Sleepover’ doesn’t disappoint. Not wanting to spoil anything, I’ll just say that something guaranteed to induce laughs occurs in and around an Old Navy display window.

The film benefits from strong writing brought to the screen by debut director Joe Nussbaum care of Elisa Bell’s script which brings dimension to the main characters without purely trivializing the able supporting cast. In addition to Carell’s wry performance, Huntington brings the same sort of wry sense of humor to his role, and Garlin is an able comic foil as the dim-witted father who spends the entire film trying in vain to fix the faucet.

Enough about the supporting cast, how do the young leads apply themselves? In the lead role, Alexa Vega is actually the weak link. Her performance comes across as exceedingly forced and she isn’t able to handle the humor as well as her costars. Maybe she should find her way back into a Robert Rodriguez film to sustain her career. Thankfully, as her best friend, young Mika Boorem positively shines. She brings wit and charm to her character; ably handling both comedy and drama. Since first making her big screen debut in Mel Gibson’s ‘The Patriot’ she has shown herself to be an actor far more mature and capable than her age would suggest.

Thanks to sharp writing, a fast-paced adventure, and, last but not least, solid performances from much of the cast; ‘Sleepover’ is one scavenger hunt worth playing.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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