Dir. Joe Nussbaum, 2004, USA , 97 min
Alexa Vega, Mika Boorem
Cashing in on the waves of the tweenies market is director Joe Nussbaum's entry into this ever growing genre, a bit like the young girls it's aimed at. Just like in the film, young girls grow up and are replaced by an ever more literate, media influenced and greedy new crop of divas in the making.
Julie (Vega) and her friends Hannah (Boorem), Farrah (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Yancy (Kallie Flynn Childress) have a supercharged sleepover on their hands: they've been challenged to a scavenger hunt by "popular" girls Stacie, Liz, Jenna and Molly. The winners get dibs on the coveted cool lunch spot once they start their freshman year in high-school at the end of the summer. The losers have to dine al fresco . adjacent to the dumpster, and far from popularity. Eager to cast off their less-than-cool reputations, the friends agree to the popular girls' challenge. With Julie's father distracted by a home-improvement project downstairs, they sneak down the rose trellis, borrow Yancy's electric car - well her parents' car - dodge Julie's mother at a nightclub, steal a pair of boxer shorts from the cutest guy in town (Sean Faris), go to their first high school dance, fall in love, and in the end, learn a little something about themselves. Yawn..
For parents wanting their teens to go watch something else while they go see more high-brow stuff, Sleepover does exactly what is says on the can. Unlike the darker teen comedies of the past, in Julie's world everything is possible - and safe. The heroine gets her man, the fat chick finds a fat guy who likes her and Stacie gets her comeuppance. But this being pre-teen she doesn't suffer too long before she finds comfort in the arms of her skater-geek, turned stand-up for the girl you love, and stalk her from afar, hero.
The film is so light and easy going that it's easy to get caught up in its whimsical fantasy, the smiles and laughter emerging from one's lips seem to happen at the right time. The touches of slapstick, gender issues and petty crime merge into the feelgood factor that the film typifies as its message. Life's about taking chances, staying true to your circle of friends, having fun and growing up in the process. It's a shame not all adolescents are as easy as this.
Sleepover was produced By Chuck Weinstock because he realized that his own children, aged six and nine, were too young to see any of the films he had made. "My son became obsessed with the motion picture rating code," says Weinstock. "I decided I should come up with a movie he and his sister could actually see, so I started thinking about what mattered to them." Soon enough he thought of the sleepover, that suburban rite of passage. "Sleepovers are an important assertion of freedom for kids," Weinstock continues, "it's how they practice leaving home". Working with writer Elisa Bell to come up with her own sleepover ideas and fashion a screenplay, the script found its way into the hands of one Joe Nussbaum.
For Nussbaum, "When I saw the script, I loved it. a lot of heart as well as laughs". The film's humour remind him of the films he liked. New on the scene, most people will have heard about Nussbaum from his most excellent short George Lucas in Love , which he directed and co-wrote in 1999 and also became one of the most popular-selling shorts in history.
Fourteen-year-old Alexa Vega, star of Robert Rodriguez's successful Spy Kids adventure trilogy and Rob Reiner's Ghosts of Mississippi , here takes lead. She appears in every scene as the story careens through one crazy night, including having to jump off a rooftop, ride a skateboard, scale a wall, climb a rope, race through malls and neighbourhoods - all in a tight red dress and high heels with all the panache of one born to it.
Like Mean Girls and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and any other of the current crop of girls coming of age movies, this is feelgood fun for all the family, one to go and see and then get the DVD for Christmas. Just don't get too worried if your nearest and dearest start sneaking out at night.