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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Sleepover
Sleepover
Lifesize Entertainment // Unrated // August 30, 2005
List Price: $27.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Carl Davis | posted August 5, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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When I saw the title "Sleepover" in my review queue, I was sure it would be the dark teen comedy Sleepover (2004) starring the rapidly developing Alex Vega of Spy Kids fame. Instead it turned out to be New York filmmaker John Sullivan's debut feature Sleepover (1995), which just I didn't have a clue about. It's also a film centered on a group of teens, it can be dark at times, but it also goes out of its way to present these characters in a realistic light. Unfortunately, this turns out to be the film's downfall, as some promising scenes of character development ultimately go nowhere and the usual melodramatic teen clich├ęs rear their ugly heads towards the end.

Sleepoverfollows Sean (Karl Giant) and his friends Mark (Michael Albanese) and Ken (Ken Miles) as they plan one last adventure on the last summer of the weekend. They all agree to tell their parents they're spending the night at each other's houses, but are actually planning on stealing a car and going out looking for girls. Sean is our eyes and ears, the everyman of the group. Mark is the tough kid, always trying to step out of his older brother's shadow, one minute your best friend and the next a bully. Ken is black and little is known about his background, but he faces discrimination from the mostly white, Connecticut suburban kids and even Mark, who claims he's a friend.

After stealing a car to go o a joyride, the trio meet up with a group of girls, the spoiled Brook, her younger sister Anne and Megan, who really likes Sean, but is too shy to express her feelings. We get to watch the group vandalize a Dairy Queen, hang out by the Quarry, get in trouble with the police and constantly fight and bicker with one another. In other words, a typical 24 hours in the life of a suburban teenager. While there are some genuine and even inspired moments, the rest just feels like watching those kids that you always see hanging out at the mall or in your local diner.

I do have to take some time to discuss one aspect of the film and that is its amazing soundtrack. Being a product of it's time, 1995, in this case is a good thing. The teens on display here are not your current crop of Gen Y'ers, instead these teens aren't pop culture addicts, they ask why there aren't as many videos on MTV anymore, they don't revel in violence and a gun is still seen as something to fear and respect, not idolize. The soundtrack really reflects the time period with music from Helmet, Don Caballero and somehow Sullivan was even able to get the late Jeff Buckley involved to score the film for which he contributed three original songs: "Searching," "Tongue" and "Yes."

The DVD:

Picture: Sleepover is in a 4:3 letterbox presentation. This film was shot full frame on 16mm stock which was then blown up to 35mm. There is definitely a handmade look to the film, which was mostly shot guerilla style, and while it's a relatively clean print, the picture is drab and there's a lot of grain.

Audio: The 2.0 channel Dolby Digital Stereo Track sounds good, although the dialogue often contends with ambient sound, the soundtrack shines.

Extras: There are two decent extras on this 10th Anniversary Edition, the first of which is an informative director's commentary by Sullivan and the other is Sullivan's award-winning short "Deliver It" (a.k.a "Pizza Guys").

Conclusion: Sleepover was certainly a promising debut, but with the only other feature-length film to Mr. Sullivan's credit being Follow Me Outside (2000), only two films in 10 years does not a career make. This is a good example of the kind of independent filmmaking done in the '90s and for a young cast they try and give it their all. Sadly, the lack of a strong narrative saps your interest before the last half when things finally get moving. Jeff Buckley fans should Rent It.

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