Released: 21st August
Seen: 9th September
In 2001 the movie Spy Kids was released to an unsuspecting public. The story of the Cortez family became something of a major hit, in part because it had such a fun and simplistic story. A pair of kids found out that their uncool parents were actually spies and when those parents were kidnapped it was up to the children to learn how to be spies themselves and rescue their parents. When I say it was a hit, I mean it, the film raked in over $140 million worldwide and was one of the 20 highest grossing films of the year. It led to a bunch of sequels and, naturally, some rip offs… including The Sleepover which is clearly copying so many ideas that Spy Kids had roughly 2 decades later which means it isn’t dated in the slightest.
The Sleepover is the incredible dated story of a simple suburban family, The Finches. The youngest son Kevin (Maxwell Simpkins) is your standard gamer kid who lives in his own world and lies all the time because he’s a young male child in a family comedy, that’s basically the standard. There’s our main character and oldest daughter Clancy (Sadie Stanley) who is a cellist, isn’t permitted to have a cell phone and is obscenely nervous all the time, a character trait that I’m sure she will magically lose at the exact right moment. There’s the father, Ron (Ken Marino) who is a baker and that’s the end of his character description. Lastly there’s Margot (Malin Akerman) who is your totally typical housewife who has absolutely no secrets whatsoever.
Oh who am I kidding, of course she has a secret because it turns out she’s been in witness protection this whole time because Margot was a criminal who turned on her old boss so now Margot’s old crime friends have found her and dragged her in for one last heist. They also kidnapped her husband because he happened to be there so while Margot and Ron work with Margot’s old fiance Leo (Joe Manganiello) their kids will have to learn about what their mother used to do while they try to save her by following a series of convenient Da Vinci Code style clues.
For lack of a better term, The Sleepover is very basic. It ticks all the required boxes with its slapstick and occasional moments of humor but it’s all the absolute bare minimum needed to get by. The jokes are kind of average, maybe eliciting a chuckle every now and then and the broad moments of physical comedy only occasionally work, but you can easily see how they could’ve pushed it further and actually gotten a laugh. You can see where they could just push a little further, maybe go a little more over the top with their reactions or even put some comedic music underneath a scene to help sell it but, as I mentioned, we’re going for the absolute bare minimum here and nothing more.
That kind of goes for the performances too, everyone here is doing a serviceable job, the highlight being Joe Manganiello who really seems to get what his role in this film is meant to be and plays it perfectly. No one’s really going for gold or anything above “Yeah that’ll do”, long as they say the lines and it kind of works that’s all we need. The characters never really approach properly likeable, they’re broad caricatures that’re there to fulfil specific roles in the scene instead of being characters with any real arc. Maybe that’d be fine for a film aimed at real young kids, which this film is with its abundance of vomit and bathroom jokes, but it kind of makes it hard for older audiences to enjoy and it’s clearly aiming at them too with some of its jokes.
Even when I really try and just embrace The Sleepover and give it a chance, the film makes that impossible by generally having no real energy behind it. We’re doing a heist movie, stealing priceless jewels off of the heads of royalty and this film just makes that so boring. Fight scenes feel like everyone learned them about half an hour before the camera rolled, the way everything was shot and edited almost made the film feel half an hour longer. The big fight of the film, the one that happens right at the time they get the crown, should be the most exciting moment of the film but it’s just not making it work.
The Sleepover certainly tries it’s best to make something fun and watchable, the ingredients are all there and it had the potential to be something but it never really pushes for anything other than just OK. Honestly, you’d be better off pulling out the old Spy Kids movies and enjoying them. Sure they definitely show their age, but The Sleepover feels like it was made in the early 2000s and it’s not as good as the actual 2000s film.