the sleepover

‘The Sleepover’: Movie Review 2020

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Director: Trish Sie

Producers: Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon

Editor: Jonathan Schwartz

Malin Akerman plays a mom with a secret in Trish Sie’s Netflix middle-school adventure .

An up-all-night adventure aimed at any young teens who still live in a pre-Tik-Tok era, Trish Sie’s The Sleepover is the kind of vanilla, disposable product one imagines might’ve played on the Disney Channel around the turn of the century.

Helmed by a veteran of Step Up and Pitch Perfect sequels and scripted by first-timer Sarah Rothschild, it follows kids who’ve learned that their fuddy-duddy mom (Malin Akerman) was once a superthief; forced back into action by her old crew, she badly needs to be rescued by four spunky youngsters who’ve never heard of True Lies, or any of the other films this one liberally cribs from.

Akerman’s Margot and her husband Glen (Ken Marino) are square, protective parents who, my god Mom, won’t even let their high-school-age daughter Clancy (Sadie Stanley) have a phone. That’s just as well this week, since she’s spared the mortification of somebody texting her a video bullies took of her younger brother Kevin (an amusingly overconfident Maxwell Simkins) dancing alone in a school bathroom. That video reaches most of the planet’s other residents, though, and the tail end of the footage includes a glimpse of Margot: just what you try to avoid when you’re in the witness-protection program.

Margot’s been in hiding since she gave up her life of crime, but within a day her old sidekicks have tracked her down. It seems that she’s the only person skilled enough to swipe the fabled crown of something-or-other, which will be worn by some dignitary at a gala. They kidnap Margot and the bewildered Glen and head off to meet her former partner/fiance Leo. Bad news for Glen: Leo is exactly as hunky and intimidating as Joe Manganiello.

Meanwhile, the kids come home with a couple of friends to find the aftermath of a kidnapping in the kitchen. With the help of a series of clues that wouldn’t have made the cut in the National Treasure pics, they learn about her former life and find the James Bond-y lair where she has stashed gear for a rainy day. Hot sports car, laser pens, instant-DNA-scan tech, that sort of thing. With all this equipment, though, they still need to go visit the kid Clancy has a crush on for help getting to the site of the planned heist.

Viewers who manage to get a few laughs at the film’s much-recycled humor — how many movies have teased the nervous kid who’s allergic to everything and whose parents forbid any sort of excitement? — may perk up toward the end, where glammed-up Mom is in Mission: Impossible mode but still manages to need her kids and hubby to bail her out. Given that one of those kids isn’t even dexterous enough to high-five his best friend after repeated attempts, that reflects pretty poorly on this alleged VIP of the underworld.

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Design values and Conrad W. Hall’s photography are as flatly unimaginative as the rest of the film, which, in its avoidance of distinguishing features, would make a better candidate for witness-relocation anonymity than Margot does.

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