“Sleepover” is yet another teen wish-fulfillment comedy where the 14-year-old girls in the audience get to pretend the 14-year-old girls on the screen — the ones staying up late, evading adults, and kissing cute boys — are themselves. These things are generally harmless, mediocre, slapped-together affairs where reviewing them is a waste of words, and this one is no different — except it isn’t harmless.
Tales of mild rebellion — Ferris Bueller skipping school and enjoying a day on the town, for example, are one thing, but “Sleepover” doesn’t know when to quit. At the end of junior high school, Julie Corki (Alexa Vega, from the “Spy Kids” films) hosts a slumber party for her two best friends and the fat girl she feels sorry for. The same night, there is a competing slumber party, held by the pretty, snotty girls who have just finished reigning over junior high and will, if unchecked, rule high school come September. (Well, they’ll rule the freshman class, anyway. They’ll still be freshmen.)
Staci (Sara Paxton), Farrah Fawcett-haired leader of the snotty girls, shows up at Julie’s house and introduces a scavenger hunt in which both parties must compete. The stakes? Primo lunch spot by the fountain in high school, while the losers have to sit with the nerds by the Dumpster. Julie was warned by her mom (Jane Lynch) that she and her guests were not to leave the house, but now she feels compelled to, as a matter of pride. Besides, one of the items on the scavenger list is a pair of boxer shorts belonging to Steve (Sean Faris), who’s only the cutest boy in high school!!
Julie’s mom went out with friends, leaving the slumber party in the care of Julie’s dad (Jeff Garlin), who is classic Movie Dumb Dad material, and her older brother (Sam Huntington), who might be funny in a different movie. The brother is easily manipulated, and the girls sneak out while Dad is doing something dumb and dad-ish, I forget what.
So the sleepover of the title disappears mere minutes after the film has begun, devolving instead into an adventures-in-suburbia story. Julie and her team run afoul of a buffoonish security guard (Steve Carell) who apparently has jurisdiction over their entire neighborhood as well as Old Navy. They wreck his car by driving another car into it — they’re not old enough to drive, but the chubby girl’s dad told her she could take his electric car “in an emergency.”
They also sneak into a bar, where one of the goals is to get a man to buy them a drink and take photographic evidence of it. That the man Julie corners turns out to be one of her teachers (Johnny Sneed) is creepy enough; the fact he doesn’t recognize her, doesn’t notice she’s obviously no older than 15, and tries to hit on her, is disturbing indeed (not to mention stupid: He just spoke to her at school THAT DAY).
Then there’s the matter of the boxer shorts. Julie winds up in Steve’s house, where Steve is getting ready for the big dance at the high school. Naturally, she winds up hiding in his shower, since that is the only place people in movies are allowed to hide. While she’s there, Steve enters the bathroom and — yes, indeed — strips naked while Julia watches. (He is then distracted and must leave the room, giving Julie a chance to commit theft of underpants.)
Are you sure you want to take your daughters to see this? I don’t have teenage daughters, but I can’t imagine I’d want them to watch a movie that glorified this sort of behavior. As I said, silly rebellion is one thing; vandalism, voyeurism, rampant disregard for safety and rule-following is something else. Besides, they’re only 14! Make these girls seniors in high school and the film would seem considerably less dangerous.
But then there’s the matter of excellent comedy, which for me can cover a multitude of sins. This film has none. It is weak and simple, with a by-the-numbers script from Elisa Bell (“Vegas Vacation,” heaven help us) and uninspired direction by Joe Nussbaum, in his feature debut. As always, there are plenty of good movies to take the girls to. There’s no need to resort to this.
D+ (1 hr., 29 min.; )