Sleeper (1973)
Sleeper (1973)

Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 29 min.

Release Date: December 17th, 1973 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Woody Allen Actors: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Mary Gregory, Don Keefer, John McLiam, Bartlett Robinson, Marya Samll

 


 

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pbeat ragtime music (by Woody Allen himself) introduces this sci-fi spoof, which instantly boasts some “Star Trek”-level flimsy sets and costumes for the 2173 time period. Encased in tinfoil, Miles Monroe (Woody Allen) has been in cryogenic immersion for 200 years after complications during a routine procedure. Back in 1973, he was a health food restaurant owner and clarinet player, but he’s been re-animated by an underground revolutionary movement, illegally, thrust suddenly into the distant future, initiating a harsh, spontaneous adjustment to the advanced world he now inhabits.

“This is what I call a cosmic screwing.” At first, it appears to be a dark, dystopian civilization, but at second glance, it’s not such a bad place. Fudge and tobacco are life-savers, contrary to everything the scientific community had determined back in the ’70s. And robots are so advanced that they far surpass every other type of labor-saving machines. But his purpose for the rebellion is to infiltrate a top-secret government project, as he’s never been catalogued by the totalitarian authorities and wouldn’t be able to give up any information in the event of capture. He could, however, be tortured for hours.

An unwilling and unwitting spy, Miles is plunged into all sorts of comical misadventures, forced to familiarize himself with an exceptionally evolved, alien society, without the benefit of a guide. It’s a fascinating science-fiction premise, but in the hands of writer/director Allen, it’s also a lighthearted, nonsensical satire. From assuming the identity of a butler robot to flying a jet pack to accidentally partaking in mind-numbing drugs to witnessing a party put on by erratic, pampered poet Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton), it’s evident that the future is as whimsical as it is oppressive. “It’s hard for us to understand the criminal element.”

All the while, Allen spouts his standard one-liners and rapid-fire commentary about politics, socioeconomic issues, and pop culture, lampooning every subject with a heavy coating of sarcasm. There’s also physical comedy, channeling Charlie Chaplin, as Miles combats rogue foodstuff (and steals giant vegetables from a garden), escapes from security forces, and fends off the techs assigned with replacing his metal robot head. Jazz music presides over these skits as well, further distancing the events from their sci-fi nature, though nevertheless infusing them with a distinct, engaging peppiness.

“You’re not taking me seriously.” As an absolute polar opposite to the depictions in something like “A Clockwork Orange,” this hilariously absurd send-up offers creative yet foolish ideas on the future of drugs, technology, food, sex, clothing, and more – even if they’re cheap and rickety. The visuals certainly aren’t the highlight here. But the script is consistently funny and ironic, especially when brain reprogramming results in Miles and Luna switching roles (and switching genders for a reenactment of “A Streetcar Named Desire”), and when the antics grow steadily more ludicrous as the revolutionaries plot their climactic governmental overthrow – involving disrupting a nose-cloning operation presided over by a HAL 9000 type of computer system. With “Sleeper,” it’s evident just how great of a comedy team Allen and Keaton make.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10