PG for thematic elements involving teen dating,
some sensuality and language (see note at bottom of the review)
July 9, 2004
1 hr., 30 min.
Alexa Vega, Mika Boorem, Kallie Flynn Childress,
Scout Taylor-Compton, Sam Huntington
Bob Cooper, Charles Weinstock
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By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter
- In the summer before their freshman high school year, four
girls have a slumber party during which they attempt to shed their
Challenged to a scavenger hunt by their "popular" rivals,
our heroines sneak into a nightclub, hijack a parent's car, seek their
first kiss, and begin to learn more about themselves. An unexpected
delight, "Sleepover" should be fun for not only preteen
girls, but also parents who tag along.
Though the 14-year-old lead tells a few fibs and gets caught up with
the fears of high school social status, she and her fellow 9th-graders
are the antithesis of the young protagonists of "Thirteen."
True, the main character gives her over-protective mother the usual
eye-rolling attitude (an outward reflection of the metamorphosis known
as female teenhood), but she possesses a sweetness and concern for
others that is no doubt a reflection of how she has been raised.
When, for instance, the mean girl of the story belittles a classmate
for being overweight, Julie (Alexa Vega from the "Spy Kids"
trilogy) immediately embraces the wounded girl into her group, signifying
her disdain for injustice and clearly judging others more for what's
inside a person than the outside.
Director Joe Nussbaum (making his feature debut) and writer Elisa
Bell ("Vegas Vacation," "Thirty Wishes") keep
things lively. With wit and affection, the filmmakers address the
subject of fitting in, but, more importantly, they pass along a message
to teen girls that spunk and personality should never take a backseat
to physical appearance. That said, the film never becomes preachy.
Wisely borrowing heart and humor from films such as "Ferris Bueller's
Day Off" and "Sixteen Candles," they choose to entertain
first, teach second.
Now, this story is about teen girls and aimed at preteen girls, so
adult characters are reduced to the same clichés as in a thousand
other adolescent screen adventures. However, the humor targeted at
buffoonish grownups is never really mean spirited. What's more, the
mother rises above the stereotype to be realized as a smart, cool
and caring parent. Sorry guys, the father figure doesn't fare as well.
Although loving, he's a bit of a moron.
The young cast is bright, attractive, and talented, portraying nice
people who just want to be accepted. Paying tribute to the suburban
rite of teen slumber parties, cast and crew bring together a satisfying
outing for the whole family.
Note: A couple of minor expletives, but I caught no harsh
or profane language; the "cool" girls hold up thong panties, implying
that's what they wear; while in a bar, an underage girl orders a drink
with a distinctly sexual title, but she is given a ginger ale - she's
not there to drink alcohol, but to fulfill the obligations of the
treasure hunt; the girls tell fibs and sneak out; a visual grosses
out the girls when they see the lead's dad bending down, working under
the sink, his pants not quite fitting; one flatulence gag when a dog
eats too much pizza - it brought the biggest laugh from the screening's
mostly juvenile audience; the girls get a date off the internet -
and while they make a point that it is a safe Web site, still the
practice of hooking up with someone from the internet is not a good
message; a girl sneaks into a boy's house to get his boxer shorts
for the scavenger hunt - she sees him from behind - her eyes wide
- as he disrobes; while you may think some of this content is objectionable,
the overall mood is sweet-spirited, lacking the usual amounts of crudity
aimed at a young audience, and the messages in the film are mostly
positive, with the lead girls learning respect and helping little
girls in the theater realize that that they are not alone with insecurities
and fears of life's unknowns.
Phil Boatwright is the editor of The Movie Reporter. For more
information, visit www.moviereporter.com.
Review used by permission.
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