Terrible movies are up there on my list of favorite things, along with the sound of rainfall and a hot cup of tea. The sheer awfulness of poor filmmaking decisions snowballing out of control until it regurgitates itself onto your screen is something that fascinates me as both a viewer and a writer.
One of my consistently favorite terrible movies is the 2004 schlockfest, Sleepover.
It featured a ton of celebrities before they were big stars, including:
- Alexa Vega (post-Spy Kids)
- Steve Carell (right before The Office became a hit). He easily gives us the best acting in this movie.
- Summer Glau (post-Firefly!)
- Coach Sue Sylvester from Glee
- Evan Peters
- The kid from Weeds
And those are just the better known actors. You will constantly question what urgent mortgages these people had to pay off in order to accept these roles.
So What’s It About?
Sleepover is about a group of 14-year-old girls at a sleepover party who go on a scavenger hunt in order to earn the coveted “fountain lunch spot.” There are the mean girls, a vain football player, a dorky skater boy named Spongebob, a slacker college brother, the clueless dad, a suspicious mom, and of course, the dreamy Steve Phillips:
I lose it every time. This is by far the best way for the out-of-your-league love interest to enter the storyline–skateboarding over a not-too-impressive water fountain to the sound of angelic pop cherubs and making the most unattractive face he can muster, like that of a confused chipmunk.
Steve serves as little more than an empty shell that’s obsessed with “The Girl in the Red Dress,” our main character Julie (Alexa) after watching her skate across his car’s path earlier in the evening. His sole character development is:
1) He’s so plush
2) He likes skateboarding
4) Julie likes him and movie rules mandate that he will therefore like her
Steve and Company
Steve’s nameless buddy (who I’ll call Romeo for ironic purposes) is the most underdeveloped character I’ve ever watched, but for some reason, the movie seems to think of him as comic relief or, at the very least, as a foil to the pure awesomeness known as Steve Phillips. Romeo spends the whole movie in the background, getting rejected by girls who love Steve instead and listening to Steve rant and rave about “The Girl in the Red Dress.”
The movie is much funnier when you make up a background story about Romeo secretly being in love with Steve. Just try it with the scene below:
Watch that and tell me that “There’s a gym full of girls waiting for you.” isn’t code for: “But you’re dating me, Steve!” Not only do Romeo’s acting choices make him look like he’s secretly pining after his undeniably plush friend, the inclusion of the scratched pool shot boggles me on a filmmaking level. It’s not funny, all the dialogue stops, and what little pacing there was screeches to a halt. What does this shot mean? What is life?
I’m also convinced Steve is secretly a sociopath. Look at his reaction to finding out that a 14-year-old girl snuck into his bathroom while he was taking a shower and stole his boxers:
That is the wrong reaction, Steve.
That is the reaction of a man who was minorly inconvenienced when he realized he just forgot his cell phone in the car, not a man who just learned a stalker broke into his house and stole his underwear
Just Date Guys Who Like Brownies
Another interesting choice by the writers is the inclusion of the confusing “Brownie vs. Celery” debate as a metaphor for choosing the perfect romantic partner. Yancy suffers from intense body image issues because of society’s crippling beauty standards and her peers’ constant bullying. Her friends’ advice? Just date guys that like brownies. That will solve everything. And it does.
The effectiveness of this method must be called into question. No one would choose celery over brownies. Are Yancy’s friends implying that she should settle for ANYONE on the entire planet?
So What Sets Sleepover Apart?
These are just the tip of the iceberg for the wonderful horror that is Sleepover. But why do I keep coming back to this terrible movie before all other terrible movies?
As strange as it sounds, Sleepover has a certain innocence about it that is in the details. It’s hard to explain, but not a lot of movies portray 14-year-olds like this movie does—as obviously whiny, clueless, self-absorbed, but not altogether loathable children. “Children” is the key word here. A lot of other shows and movies portray kids as miniature adults who are wise beyond their years. This movie does a little bit of that and the girls are definitely annoying, but…they also try to order a milkshake at a nightclub. They dance around in Spice Girls costumes. Their mannerisms are child-like. They put on outlandish makeup (for fun!). And while skater boy Spongebob is obsessed with girls, he still has a Velcro wallet that holds his prized picture of him lying in a coma that he shows off to anyone who will listen.
This is basically a PG rated version of an 80s teen movie.
Most movies seem like they were written by teenage boys. Well, Sleepover sets itself apart because it’s like it was written by preteen girls and the result is absolutely magical. It follows the most basic plotline imaginable, the acting is what you’d expect from a middle school play, but I think it helps me remember how I saw the world as a 14-year-old girl.
So tell me, what’s a terrible movie you like?