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film review

Lucas Jaye, left, as Lewis, Sadie Stanley as Clancy and Cree Cicchino as Mim in The Sleepover, the latest entry in Netflix’s experiment in catch-‘em-all entertainment.CLAIRE FOLGER/Netflix

  • The Sleepover
  • Directed by Trish Sie
  • Written by Sarah Rothschild
  • Starring Malin Akerman, Ken Marino and Joe Manganiello
  • Classification PG; 100 minutes

Rating:

2.5 out of 4 stars

A giddy and fitfully amusing mashup of Adventures in Babysitting, Date Night, the Spy Kids franchise and, um, Wet Hot American Summer, The Sleepover is the latest entry in Netflix’s experiment in catch-‘em-all entertainment.

Although aimed primarily at nice young boys and girls – the kind of kids who fantasize about sneaking out at night to party, but have never even mustered the courage to change the parental controls on their Netflix accounts – Trish Sie’s adventure-comedy has a certain edge to it. There are the requisite life lessons and sombre moments of family bonding, but also moments of acid-tinged humour and a light touch of surreality that makes the entire affair more memorable than, say, if Disney+ got a hold of Sarah Rothschild’s script.

Malin Ankerman as Margot and Ken Marino as Ron keep The Sleepover's script tight with their performance.CLAIRE FOLGER/Netflix

A good portion of the film’s success is due to Sie’s sharp casting, with oft-under-praised (but not exactly under-used) comedic performers Ken Marino, Malin Akerman and Joe Manganiello getting their hands adorably dirty with their suburbia-gone-bad roles.

The seemingly everywhere Marino (Black Monday, Fresh Off the Boat and Netflix’s own Medical Police) gets the best slices of screen time, introduced as a minivan-driving dad earnestly singing Paula Cole’s Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? before being thrust into a high-stakes heist scheme. It turns out that his wife (Akerman) was once an international super-thief, and after the two are forced into pulling off one last job, it’s up to their children (Sadie Stanley and Maxwell Simkins) to save the day.

Trish Sie-directed The Sleepover set-pieces feel made-for-TV flat.CLAIRE FOLGER/Netflix

Sie is not reinventing the genre wheel here, and many of her set pieces feel made-for-TV flat, but she appears to be having as much fun as her budget allows. And while there are a few obligatory vomit and fart jokes, they’re fitfully amusing – as far as vomit and fart jokes go.

Bad guys are hurt, but not killed. Jewels are stolen, but returned. Responsibility is not squandered, but earned. So go ahead and tell mom the babysitter’s dead – but rest assured that Netflix is watching over your young ones with as much care and caution as any by-the-hour caregiver.

The Sleepover is available to stream on Netflix starting Aug. 21

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