Review: Sleeper (1973)


Woody Allen takes his act to the future!

Written By: Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman
Directed By: Woody Allen

Sleeper starts off promising enough, and it is fall on the floor funny at times, but as it rolls along I was struck by the fact that I was watching the most disappointing Woody Allen film I have ever seen. Not the worst mind you, but Sleeper could have been a great comedy and instead it’s only a good one that gets lost trying to stretch out its jokes.

There are numerous gags in Sleeper that start out funny but slowly deteriorate and end with a silent whimper. This isn’t true of all the gags, the out of control baking for instance, but more often than not the gags go on too long for their own good. Take the cloning nose gag for example, it starts off strong, Allen and Diane Keaton are wonderfully playing off of each other and they are very funny. But, the gag keeps on going and going and with each passing second it’s less and less funny. There are too many jokes and scenes like that in Sleeper, the movie feels like an overtly long joke, starts off strong but fails to sustain itself.

I have found that Woody Allen is hit and miss when he tries physical comedy. I am more a fan of his later work that is dialogue driven and Sleeper is a good example of why that is. Some of the physical comedy in Sleeper does work, but for the most part it feels like Allen is imping Charlie Chaplin as much as he can yet failing to deliver the same kind of laughs. It’s hit and miss like I said, so it’s not like Chaplin when he tried talkies where I consider all of it a miss, but I think it’s fairly obvious that Allen’s strength lay in verbal comedy and not physical comedy.

Being a comedy, the true test of whether Sleeper is any good comes down to whether it is funny. At times Sleeper is hilarious, particularly when Diane Keaton is in the picture. The banter back and forth between her and Allen is very funny as are most of the futuristic jokes. However, Sleeper isn’t funny all the time, there are too many segments that are dead weight. The Miss America joke for instance isn’t funny when it starts and as it continues it just gets worse.

There are also some technical gaffes here and there in Sleeper, but despite my many gripes I want to emphasize that Sleeper is a disappointing movie, not a bad movie. Of course I wish that Sleeper was much better and had lived up to its promising start, but I can live with the end result, a comedy that is funny at times, not so funny at other points, but on the whole a good movie.





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