What do you believe in? Sex and death, but at least after death you’re not nauseous.
Woody Allen movies can probably be broken down into any number of categories. Thus far, I’m up to three: The classic romantic comedies, the dramas, and the zanies. Sleeper (1973) is a zany. It’s my least favorite category. It’s like themed high-brow stand-up comedy twinned with a low-brow sit com. That probably makes it unpalatable to most viewers.
Miles Monroe (Woody Allen) was a clarinetist and health food store owner when he was cryogenically frozen after an operation to remove a peptic ulcer went badly. Two hundred years later, he was awakened to help take down the dystopia. Miles has to run for it to meet the Underground and, after posing as her robot servant, has to take Luna (Diane Keaton) with him. After a time, they meet up with Erno (John Beck) the Underground leader. If they win, it’ll be by a nose.
I’m not a fan of zany comedy. Nor madcap, silly, or inane. Sleeper has a soundtrack on the jazz side of Benny Hill. But, as I said, it isn’t exclusively low. Most of it is classic Woody Allen dialogue. Luckily, we’re outside of New York and so people don’t have to talk like pretentious yuppies the whole time. That technique is successful pretty rarely in my experience of Woody Allen movies.
Still, there are times where Allen is lolling his eyes around like a four year old playing drunk. That’s pretty poor. That level of acting is only good for people with structural, almost German, senses of humor–“Oh, he is drunk with narcotics. That is funny. I laugh now.” Sleeper isn’t that bad that often, but it does happen.
This movie and its direction is exclusively 70’s in nature. Fast zooms, wacky costumes, would-be good-looking heroes with ABBA hair and beard. There’s a bit that was quite funny–might as well use futurism while you’ve got it–where they want artifacts and video footage explained and annotated. The structure is (1) artifact/footage, (2) future guys gets it right, then (3) Miles puts him wrong (commentary on culture/politics). I would have preferred (1) artifact/footage, (2) future guy gets it wildly wrong (commentary on culture/politics), then (3) Miles plays the straight man and puts them right or just reacts. That would objectify the commentary and make the joke work better, I think.
I guess, really, I didn’t much like the movie. It has its charms and it isn’t like I feel I’ve lost two hours I’ll never get back–nowhere near that. Still, Sleeper is worth owning only if you intend to entertain guests with a Woody Allen marathon. You always need one or two that everyone can chat or nap through.