Sleepover

Alexa Vega in Sleepover

 

 

Alexa Vega – the girl component of Spy Kids – gets her own teenage vehicle, and it’s the sort of film it’s very easy to be snarky about, especially if you’re not the target audience. It’s the usual teen/tween fare, in fact, about girls who are obsessed with friends, boyfriends and status and focusing on Alexa and her mates who must embark on a scavenger hunt against the film’s obligatory Rich Bitches to win a treasure hunt. The hunt itself has no importance except to keep the film going but then there are a lot of films that use the flimsiest of pretexts to keep things bubbling along. In other news, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a point of reference, if you look at Sleepover with your eyes screwed up. Though John Hughes has nothing to fear from Elisa Bell’s screenplay. If I’m making this all sound cruddy, then apologies, because it isn’t. Director Joe Nussbaum has a driving determination to keep the story piling along and he’s also a dab hand with the sight gag, and Bell has written enough smart lines to keep the support cast (including Steve Carell and Jeff Garlin) with material to work with. It’s light, bright, fairly forgettable and a lot more fun that you might expect.
© Steve Morrissey 2004

 

Sleepover – at Amazon

 

 

Spy Kids

Daryl Sabara, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega and Antonio Banderas in Spy Kids

 

 

Ever since he’d arrived in 1992 with his made-for-nothing El Mariachi, director Robert Rodriguez had been readying himself for Hollywood primetime. His 1996 grindhouse vampire comedy From Dusk till Dawn had allowed him to play with a big name cast (Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Salma Hayek and a new-to-movies George Clooney) and special effects, and boasted a script by Quentin Tarantino. Following on from that The Faculty gave him a sexy gang of newcomers (Josh Hartnett, Jordana Brewster), a smart script by Kevin Williamson and a bucket of attitude. Both films were, by Hollywood standards, fairly low rent. With Spy Kids he finally got what he wanted – lots of cash, nearly all of it on screen, and this time he wrote the screenplay himself. It’s a film in which Rodriguez gets to show what he can do. And he succeeds at pretty much everything. His jokes are actually funny, his action sequences are actually thrilling. As for his plot, well that’s fairly fresh too. It tells the story of two sleeping secret agents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) who are kidnapped, forcing their kids to come and rescue them. Its triumph is not the performances of its stars (fine), nor the gadgetry (believably intricate), nor the locations (punishingly glamorous), nor the villains (British and dastardly) – it’s the kids. Somehow Rodriguez has managed to extract performances from Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara that are believably child-like (unusual in child actors) yet robust and self-assured enough for us all to believe that they can operate as mini James Bonds and win through. It’s a perfect fantasy, done at lightning speed, with the colour turned all the way up, bursting with ingenuity and fun. Has Rodriguez made a better film since?

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

Spy Kids – at Amazon