Sleeper – 1973
Director – Woody Allen
Starring – Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, and John Beck
So being relatively new to the films of Woody Allen, I’ve learned that it’s possible to lump them into certain groups dictated by genre as well as by the phase of his career. You have his neurotic comedy phase of the early 70’s, his Ingmar Bergmanesque phase of the 80’s, and then you have the crap-o-rama phase of the 90’s. In between these, you’ll also find an occasional homage to a different genre. Manhattan Murder Mystery, for example, is a nod to the screwball comedy, and then there’s the very Hitchcockian thriller/mystery that is Match Point. And then you come to a film like Sleeper. Part slapstick comedy in the vein of Benny Hill, part science fiction adventure, all boring and unfunny.
Allen, plays the role of Miles Monroe, a man who is frozen after a botched medical procedure only to wake 200 years later in a future that resembles a sort-of Three Stooges take on 1984. The people of this world are kept sedated by television, sex, and drugs, as their leader runs the government with his police force. Already an outlaw, Miles has to hideout in disguise as a robot butler in the home of a flighty, shallow, young woman, Luna, played by Diane Keaton. Naturally things go awry, and they end up on the run together.
Normally, this sort of story would get me pretty jazzed to see the film. I am a big fan of science fiction, comedy, and the novel 1984. In this case however, the comedy is so blatantly dumb that I wonder if anyone even looked at the script before approving and funding it. I have absolutely no idea how this film made it onto a best of list like this one when truly funny, well executed comedies such as The Big Lebowski have been woefully left off, but I’m sure it must either be some sort of nostalgia on the part of those editors putting the list together or maybe this film was a really big inspiration to someone (hopefully it inspired them to never make a movie like this again.)
To be fair, I don’t know that I quite “get” Woody Allen’s comedy. I didn’t really like Annie Hall, and that was supposedly one of the funniest movies ever, and I downright hated Manhattan Murder Mystery mostly because it was fucking awful! Sleeper, though, is filled with the sort of obnoxious kid humor that only 5 year olds think is funny. By comparison the work of The Three Stooges seems downright academic.
In terms of acting, Woody Allen switches between his usual nervous, comedic delivery, and outlandish pantomime. In short, there is no developement or depth to his character. This seems to be par for the course though, as none of the other characters change or grow at all either. One argument might be that this is a comedy, and its sole intent is to be funny not moralize or chart growth. My response to that is…even the characters in films like Airplane! and The Naked Gun progress as people, so why shouldn’t the characters in Sleeper?
All in all, I did not like this film, and I definitely feel that it shouldn’t even have been placed in the top 2001 movies of all time. See it if you want, but see it at your own risk and don’t say I didn’t warn you.