Director: Trish Sie
Producer: Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon
Writer: Sarah Rothschild
Cast: Sadie Stanley, Maxwell Simkins, Cree Cicchino, Lucas Jaye, Ken Marino, Joe Manganiello, Malin Åkerman
Streaming Platform: Netflix
“I’m not going to jail. I have lunch duty on Monday,” Margot (Malin Åkerman), mother to two, wife to one, clarifies. The Sleepover starts with her as a timid home-maker who, according to her stories, spent her high-school reading Yeats at the local library. It swerves radically with her in a torn pink-shimmy dress and heels. She uses the plate her pastry-chef husband (Ken Marino) placed his banana with avocado frosting cupcakes on, like a disc to fling into the villain’s stomach, immobilizing him. She has a past that thus far no one knows about. Except now her past has come to claim her to fulfill one final big mission involving a big theft with her big ex-fiance (Joe Manganiello) with big muscles. The Pescatrici Syndicate wants her to steal the crown of Duramuran, once exhibited in the Louvre, now on the head of some royalty.
Her two kids, the Cello playing Clancy and the younger, wilder Kevin, along with Clancy’s feisty friend Mim, and Kevin’s bedwetting friend Lewis, are now faced with the duty of finding the parents who are taken away mysteriously. All they have are clues like the collar on their dog Angus, and a message their mother wrote on spilt flour. From here the young-adult genre is smashed to smithereens. The high school senior that Clancy has her eyes on, the popular-but-bitchy trinity, and the jerks are all forgotten as this movie, most of which takes place over one Friday night, traverses the Famous Five terrain- of four kids trying to solve mysteries with clues leading to more clues, and a dog in tow. But of course there’s always the veneer of teen-hormones. Mim rationalizes this wild odyssey they will have to take to her doubtful friend Clancy, “To save your parents… and maybe get a boyfriend.”
This action comedy doesn’t bother to take on more difficult issues like Margot’s withdrawal-symptoms from a life of high-adrenaline, playing Cello and charmer in a crime syndicate-cum-music-band, to that of a home-maker to ingrates.
The clue-catechism is relentless- one after the other, the next one more improperly explained than the last, and this tires quickly! Even if, like me, suspension of disbelief comes easy to you, this clue-terrain, while wild, doesn’t have the sense of rational abandon to keep the viewer tethered. It involves magic walls that morph into cupboards, and sofas into cars, cars that drive themselves, and boats that might as well have. Solutions prop up as soon as problems are articulated, and this simplicity is too dated in a genre that has had enough of Home Alones and Baby’s Day Outs. But just as I waited for the last shoe to drop, there is some salvaging that happens in the last third of the film, where the two strands, of the bumbling Famous Five in cloaks and caps, and of James Blonde kicking ass, meet.
The pastry chef father is merely present for shits and giggles, and his awe and disbelief is honestly putting off. Get with it man, your wife was not who you thought she was! His comical insecurity vis-a-vis the delicious Manganiello while understandable, is quite annoying.
Weakest when it’s mushy, strongest when it’s whimsical, and disposable when it’s convenient, this action comedy doesn’t bother to take on more difficult issues like Margot’s withdrawal-symptoms from a life of high-adrenaline, playing Cello and charmer in a crime syndicate-cum-music-band, to that of a home-maker to ingrates. Her teenage daughter now respects her because she had lived on the edge once. Is that all it takes to make one’s teenage child listen and loiter to one’s whims? To have been a high-stakes thief who lived between laser welding surfaces and gossamer gowns? It seems that the parenting guide books have gotten it all wrong.