Remember the carefree days when fourteen year old girls would have sleepovers, order pizza and dance around to pop music? It seems like a distant memory now, as the fourteen year old girls of 2004 strut around in midriff tops and wear eyeliner to school. Sleepover is a pre-teen movie that unsuccessfully and unrealistically brings us back to the time when even the popular girls were prudes.
Sleepover is about four girls who aren't the cream of the crop at their junior high school. Lead by cutesy Alexa Vegas as Julie, the other girls, Hannah (Mika Boorem of Blue Crush), Yancy (Kallie Flynn Childress) and Farrah (Scout Taylor Compton) are challenged by the popular girls to a scavenger hunt, where the winners have dibs on the shrine that is the best lunch spot in the high school. The popular girls obviously have the upper-hand because they are prettier and look older (the swans always seem to have it easier in every teen movie), but Julie and friends have personality on their side, and predictably, that means we all know how this movie will end.
While the movie offers a light-hearted look at teen life, it also strains to show ineffective emotional aspects, such as Julie's mother struggling with the fact that her baby is growing up. Then, there is Julie's inner turmoil: She wants to have independence and autonomy from her parents but does she actually really want to grow up the way she thinks she does? After all, she still has a tree house and dances to The Spice Girls.
Not only does Julie have to struggle with the hardships of growing up and fitting in, but she also has to deal with the fact that her best friend Hannah will be moving away and won't be joining them at the lunch table if they win the scavenger hunt.
As a side-plot the film also chooses to explore Yancy's plight to overcome adversity, as she is a chubby girl who is often made fun of in the hallways at school. Yancy accepts the fact that boys just don't like her and girls choose her as a friend only as a last resort. Hannah uses an almost insulting analogy for Yancy's dilemma, asking her, would she rather eat celery or a brownie? When Yancy eagerly chooses the brownie as her choice, Hannah informs her that all she needs to do is find someone who also prefers brownies. What exactly does this mean? I'm not too sure myself, but when Yancy finally meets her match in a sort of dorky and overweight young man, I wondered why the fat girl can only be paired up with the fat guy. Obviously, no man is admirable enough to disregard looks as
the most important factor in choosing a mate, and obviously, only a larger-sized man can love a larger woman?
And of course a teen movie wouldn't be complete without a love story. This movie follows the formula of Sixteen Candles, and although the storyline worked perfectly for SC, it just doesn't cut it in Sleepover. Julie pines away for Steve Phillips (Sean Faris), an older and might I add, hot skater boy who catches a glimpse of Julie skateboarding in an eye-catching red dress. From this moment on, Steve decides he has to have her (and completely unaware that Julie has had a huge crush on him since forever!) and even pulls a Jake Ryan move, a la Sixteen Candles, when he whips out a yearbook to find an awkward picture of Julie. Then, of course, the culmination of the love story ends up at the high school dance, where Steve and Julie ultimately find happiness in each other's arms. (Oh NO!!! I've said too much and ruined the surprise ending!!!!)
In Sixteen Candles, the whole point of the movie was the focus on Sam's (Molly Ringwald) longing and pining for the ultimate prize: Jake Ryan (aka the hottest boy in school). We feel Sam's pain as she is the true underdog: A cute sophomore with no social status whatsoever. When she finally wins Jake's affections we understand why! This is because Jake and Sam's characters were fully developed and the film followed the process of the two of them getting together throughout. A love story just doesn't work when the only reason the man of interest feels the need to lavish a gal with attention is because he sees her riding a skateboard. Character development please!!
I liked the idea of having the girls in the film appear so innocent (the popular girl Staci won't "hook up"Â with her high school boyfriend so he dumps her). I liked the idea of pre-teen girls having to struggle with their identity in the world of junior high which can often be harsh and cruel. I even liked the clichéd idea of the underdog winning the popular cute boy, in a world of pretty blondes with button noses. However, Sleepover manages to take on far too many recycled ideas instead of focusing on an important few.
Movie Grade: C-
In the summer before their freshman year in high school, Julie (Vega) has a slumber party with her best friends, Hannah, Yancy, and Farrah – and they end up having the adventure of their lives. In attempt to cast off their less-than-cool reputations once and for all, Julie and her friends enter into an all-night scavenger hunt against their “popular girl” rivals. Hijacking dad’s car, sneaking into clubs, evading Julie’s mother, and even
a first kiss – anything is possible at Julie’s Sleepover.