"The Sleepover" Movie Review
Seeing as she was the brains behind those phenomenal, one-take music videos by OK Go, you would think anything that director Trish Sie touches would be a tightly-choreographed, uber-whimsical joyride. But as we learned in 2017, with her helming of the “silly whimper” that was the finale of the Pitch Perfect trilogy, past performance does not always indicate future success.
Sie’s latest effort continues that downward trend—though, to be fair, adults are far from the target demographic for the Netflix original The Sleepover. Tween girls and even younger boys may well have a decent time, but that’s as far as it goes for this film, which feels like a less-snazzy fifth or sixth entry in the Spy Kids saga.
Sadie Stanley stars as Clancy, the put-upon, high-school daughter of cookie-cutter parents Margot (Malin Akerman) and Ron (Ken Merino), who live on Cape Cod. The only thing Clancy wants is her own phone and to hang with boys at a weekend party, but instead she gets grounded. Meanwhile, her younger brother Kevin (Maxwell Simkins) is the school’s resident outcast and star of a recent viral video that makes “Star Wars Kid” look tame by comparison.
On the night of the titular event, Clancy’s bestie Mim (Cree Cicchino) is sneaking her friend out of the house while Kevin and his buddy Lewis (Lucas Jaye) are camped out in the backyard. When Lewis goes back inside for a quick potty break, he notices a band of masked baddies break into the house and kidnap Margot and Ron, which sets in motion the zany hijinks that make up the bulk of the film.
Turns out, Margot was a big-time thief before she met Ron, but she went into witness protection after testifying against her boss. Now, once they recognize her from Kevin’s viral video, her old cohorts, headed by—naturally—Margot’s stud of an ex-fiance (Joe Manganiello), have tracked her down to force her into helping pull one last job. Fortunately, she leaves behind a series of clues to help her kids swoop in a save the day.
Seems simple enough, until you give this thing more than a passing thought. Take, for example, the fact that the four teenagers need to (*deep breath) figure out they should look at the inside of a dog’s collar for the first clue, rely on the accidental and perfect placement of boogers for the next, then swim across the Massachusetts Bay at night, break into the Public Library after hours, uncover more ultra-obscure clues, outsmart one of Margot’s former accomplices, and then break into a super-posh shin-dig to save the day. That should give you at least some idea of what we’re dealing with.
Somehow, though, The Sleepover still manages to wind up as a halfway-amiable attempt at family fun, primarily because of the kids’ performances and also due to the relatively high landing rate for the film’s one-liners. Though the overall script by novice Sarah Rothschild is a mess at nearly every turn, it does have its moments here and there, which help it be at least somewhat entertaining in spite of itself. Indeed, straining every conceivable fiber of logic, The Sleepover will require adults to simply leave the remote with the kids for 90 minutes or, better yet, get in a quick forty winks themselves as the silliness unfolds.