Sleeper - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Sleeper Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 6, 2007
like many of allen's early films, sleeper is great for the first hour, tons of laughs and very clever, but it looses a lot of steam at the end. allen was clearly honing his craft, but the film had a great concept, and but for the invention of the internet it could have proven quite clever with time. all around solid comedy.
Super Reviewer
½ October 19, 2009
Half side-splittingly funny, half pretty stupid Woody Allen film concerning a man who awakens after a 200 year coma, and finds out he is wanted by the authorities due to his awakening, forcing him to go on the run. This is obviously Allen doing his best Charlie Chaplin impression, and he's definitely not bad at it. This movie flies by pretty quickly, and the usual romance between Allen and Diane Keaton is well handled. The whole story is absolutely silly, but it is still a very entertaining film for the most part, one that is just occasionally bogged down by a few dumb parts that probably should have been cut out. Still, at only 85 minutes or so, it's definitely worth a view if you are a fan of Allen's work.
Super Reviewer
August 14, 2010
One of the simple instances of Woody Allen making comedies that are grounded in comedy, and not surrealism or human dysfunction. There is just simple ease to this film, flowing from one thing to the next. It's grounded in the same neurotic toils that many of Allen's films are and were, but there is something so decidedly human, sweet, and existential about this film, which makes it a critical and cultural darling. Not only does that film conjure many riveting images, but also makes its mark in genres such as dystopian societies, doomed love affairs, and the always popular Allen sub-genre of comedy. It never slows, always pops with its references and originality, and even mimics slapstick and vaudevillian comedy. I loved that the dystopian aspect of it wasn't played up too seriously, while also drawing humor from the inadequacies of life, and ultimately satirizing common day (which was the nineteen seventies at that point.) It made me laugh all the way through, it had a sweetened love story between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton's characters, and it decided to lay low until the initial laugh, which was always a surprise. I loved the setting, the choices in fumbling villains and overwrought pains of the protagonist. The throwbacks to eras of comedy, and the origins of the director, were subtle yet precocious, and ultimately it's a film that will resonate with many generations not just for its nostalgia but its crisp examination of society and the happiness it brings to be alive.
Super Reviewer
July 6, 2012
"Sleeper" is an earlier Woody Allen comedy, which means it has plenty of one-liner filled dialogue and Chaplin-esque slapstick. While it is a witty take on the future, the comedy is pretty antiquated. As a result, modern audiences will likely find it hard to love, but some (like myself) may find it easy to appreciate.
Super Reviewer
January 2, 2008
This early 70s Woody Allen offering blends together a heavy dose of slapstick, silent movies, neuroses, Jewishness, and sci-fi with the result being one of the most silly, absurd, and funniest satirical films I've watched in a while.

This is the story of a man who, after a routine medical procedure gone wrong, finds himself waking up 200 years into the future into a bizarre dystopia where men are impotent, women are frigid, and all is far from being right with the world.

Like I said, this is some really absurd and silly stuff, so that may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I found a lot of this to be quite hilarious at best, and super witty/chuckle enducing at worst. The set design and production values have a wonderful cheesiness and endearing quality to them, the music is just dynamite (Woody rocks his clarinet on a lot of it), and the performances, oh the performances, those are just tremendously awesome and fun to watch.

I'm not a big fan of slapstick, but visual gags, silly faces, and performances where body language dominates (ie Belushi in Animal House) work for me, so I found a lot to enjoy here. I did like the slapstick though, because it didn't seem too overbearing, and wasn't the only method of generating laughs.

This is pretty much the Woody show, but Keaton puts in a hilarious performances as well. One scene in particular, where some of the future people try to help Allen's character remember his past had me doubled over in stitches and nearly crying. There's also lots of great Easter eggs and references to other great sci works such as 2001.

Give this one a shot. It's ridiculous, a little dated, and incredibly silly, but it's pretty damn hard not to like, or at least get a little something out of.
Super Reviewer
March 23, 2007
A health food store owner wakes up from cryogenic stasis to find himself 200 years in the future and the unlikely hero of an underground set on toppling the Big Brother style government. One of Woody Allen's funniest films, Sleeper is scattershot spoof of science fiction movies packed with his trademark one liners and clear homages to the silent era. For me, it's easily at its best when parodying the health food fads of the time "All of your friends have been dead for nearly 200 years!" "They can't be, they ate organic rice!" but there's also plenty of slapstick in the style of Chaplin, Lloyd and Keaton as well as some clear nods to the Marx brothers. It's a great mix of po-faced 70s sci-fi (you wouldn't know it was a comedy until Allen's goofy face first appears) and plain sillines and although it's a little hit and miss, when it's funny, it's VERY funny. I could've lived without the ragtime soundtrack (one of my most hated styles of music) but as a whole, it's huge fun.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
June 6, 2010
Where many serious dramatic or horror directors can hit the ground running first time out, comedy directors usually need a few films to find out what works and how well. John Landis is now widely revered as a comedy director but bits of Kentucky Fried Movie and Animal House feel amateurish and slapdash. The same goes for Kevin Smith, although the foul-mouthed adolescence of Clerks is infinitely preferable to the mawkish sentimentality of Jersey Girl.

Sleeper falls into the same grouping. It's a decent, workable effort from Woody Allen which retains some of its charm and much of its humour. It isn't in the same league as Annie Hall, Manhattan or Hannah and her Sisters, and elements of it have become more irritating than funny over time. But it's an interesting venture from a young filmmaker who hadn't quite figured out what shape his career was going to take.

Much like its predecessor, Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), Sleeper has its roots in the episodic, observational vignettes of Allen's early writing and stand-up. It has a more narrative structure than 'Sex, and its characters are somewhat more developed, but it remains a hotchpotch of many different ideas and literary sources. Like a stand-up routine, these individual ideas or elements are not there to be explored in any kind of depth; they are only included for as long as they are funny, an observation which will prove useful in helping us to assess the film.

Sleeper draws on a wide range of dystopian science fiction, both from page and screen. The central premise of a man waking up after two hundred years is loosely based on H. G. Wells' The Sleeper Wakes, but instead of our protagonist waking up as the richest man in the world (due to compound interest), he is merely confused and out of place. In that respect the film owes an equal debt to the Mark Twain story A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, only with the direction of time travel reversed. There are also thematic references to Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, the latter especially in the prominent position of drugs and casual sex. And visually the film reflects the sci-fi ventures of Stanley Kubrick, combining the stark white interiors of 2001 with the peculiar fashions of A Clockwork Orange.

In a serious-minded sci-fi film this would be all well and good, but Allen marries it instead to the melodramatic slapstick of Buster Keaton and the tart one-liners of the Marx Brothers. The film is on one level Allen paying homage to his comedy heroes; he gives us the most elaborate and funniest banana skin joke in any film, and performs his own version of the mirror trick from Duck Soup. Both of these scenes are funny in their own small way, but they also hint at the central problem with the film as a whole.

There can be no doubt from watching Sleeper than Allen is an intelligent filmmaker. Most of what made his observational stand-up so enjoyable remains both in the caustic one-liners of Miles Monroe and the fleeting jibes he makes at revered social institutions like the Catholic Church. In one early scene, he is shown a series of photographs and television clips and asked to identify key historical figures. Allen is in his element here, tearing into reputations which took generations to build up with a series of perfectly balanced put-downs, which walk the tightrope between clever and stupid and make it safely to the other side.

Sleeper is a high concept film in nature, since it has one central idea which the rest of the script has to bend over backwards to support. Just as Jaws wouldn't work if you weren't constantly scared, so Sleeper would quickly fall apart if you ever stopped laughing and started to pick this brave new world apart. Generally this doesn't happen, since Allen's verbal comedy nearly always hits the mark, but the film does feel like he has chucked everything and the kitchen sink at the screen to stop you questioning the logic of the world he has created.

The biggest problem with Sleeper is that so many different forms of comedy are being employed, and in such a slapdash, desperate manner, that a lot of the substance and intellect gets buried underneath passing entertainment. In Annie Hall, the long speeches about anti-Semitism or the encounter with Marshal McLuhan are not rushed along in a desperate bid to get to the next joke; Allen, as both a writer and director, takes his time, letting a scene unfold and the comedy to develop at the required pace.

In Sleeper, on the other hand, all of the brilliant gags about religion, revolution and relationships are swept along and quickly forgotten. It's like running around a sweet shop in a desperate bid to sample everything; it's fun, and you have some idea of how it's going to end, but you never get the chance to stop and appreciate each individual moment of craft.

An equally apt comparison, considering the references to Kubrick, would be with Dr. Strangelove, another film which took a deeply serious prospect and succeeded in making it seem ridiculous (Sleeper does actually reference Strangelove -- notice that 'the leader' is in a wheelchair and has a similar haircut). Dr. Strangelove works so well, on one level, because it identifies exactly what kind of comedy it wants to be very early on: the script is rooted in absurdist humour and supported by Kubrick's focus on the Freudian undertones of power. Sleeper doesn't have that level of consistency, and in its weaker moments towards the end it does feel like it is clutching at straws.

On top of the general feeling of fleetingness and inconsistency, parts of Sleeper are just really, really annoying. The slapstick scenes are scored with Allen playing clarinet with his ragtime band. On paper this sound fine, since silent comedy has always been backed by music and the clarinet was used in 'Dance of the Cuckoos', the famous Laurel and Hardy theme. But in the film itself it's really grating, being mixed far too loud and undermining some of the best visual jokes in the process. Plus, if you can get beyond the neuroticism of Allen's character (i.e. you realise that he's not just playing himself), you still have to deal with Diane Keaton; for a lot of the film her character is greatly unlikeable, and no matter how much irony there is on screen we struggle to care about her for some time.

Sleeper is a comedy which is equal parts grating and grin-inducing. So much of what Allen does here is annoying, or repetitive, or too much of a diversion from the central concept. But the film never really stops being funny, and thus it continues to work as a comedy. Whether it's the running joke about the exploding guns or the well-crafted put-downs, you'll find a certain aspect of Sleeper that will tickle your funny bone. It isn't as well-crafted as Dr. Strangelove, nor do its jokes carry the story as well as in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But it still works well both as a slice of clownish escapism and as a reminder of the greatness which has long since diminished.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
½ May 11, 2010
1973's "Sleeper" comes at the latter end of Woody Allen's run of slapstick films and is possibly his most polished film up to that point. Miles Monroe, Allen's typical neurotic New Yorker character dies on the operating table while having a routine cyst removed, is cryogenically frozen and awakened 200 years in the future. He then spends the rest of the film on the run from the "big brother" government and a "soma"-fed society. It does feel, most of the time, like a ridiculous send up of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World", only with more 70s pop references. It's time capsule comedy, the type most of today's younger viewers aren't going to find funny, but I still think it has plenty of laughs.
Super Reviewer
April 19, 2010
This is possibly the funniest movie I've ever seen! Woody Allen is a RIOT! This is the first movie of his that Ive ever seen and I loved it! The music and the humor is great! He is sooo funny!!!!!
Super Reviewer
April 29, 2009
a young man's loving homage to his loves, like chaplin, keaton, lloyd, et al, and why not, and diane keaton (in perhaps the film that made her) his infectiously charming paramour at the time, and the old time new orleanian jazz music (or is it klezmer) (which, again, the man loves, hell, he plays it), which makes for one big charismatic matzo ball from the '70's, vey is mir! the last allen film perhaps before he became the writer/director mangod he's known as nowadays.
Super Reviewer
June 11, 2006
Miles Monroe: Where am I anyhow, I mean, what happened to everybody, where are all my friends?
Dr. Aragon: You must understand that everyone you knew in the past has been dead nearly two hundred years.
Miles Monroe: But they all ate organic rice!

Woody Allen plus Science Fiction equals a very funny premise for a movie. This is a wonderful idea that Allen has come up with, implanting his character into a futuristic world.

[Miles gets to look at some pictures to identify the people on them]
Miles Monroe: This was Josef Stalin. He was a communist, I was not too crazy about him, had a bad mustache, lot of bad habits. This is Bela Lugosi. he was, he was the mayor of New York city for a while, you can see what it did to him there, you know. This is, uhm, this is, uh, Charles DeGaulle, he, he was a very famous French chef, had his own television show, showed you how to make souflets and omelettes and everything.

Allen is Miles Munroe. Miles has just been awoken from a 200 year sleep following one of those standard accidents where a person ends up being preserved and awoken in the future.

Seen as a threat, Miles is immediately sought by the authorities and forced to be on the run. Miles is alerted by a group of scientists that he must attempt to find an underground activist group looking to overthrow the possibly corrupt government.

Miles Monroe: I'm not really the heroic type. I was beat up by Quakers.

Along the way, Miles meets a futuristic poet and hippie, Luna played by Diane Keaton in her first Woody Allen movie, and the two eventually flee together, and attempt to put a stop to possible corruptness, although true to Allen form, there is never a good answer involving leaders.

Besides the plot, this movie is of course about Allen interacting in a futuristic world. The portrayal of the future Allen has created is very funny while containing various elements of plausibility, making the film serve as a satirical take on human progression.

It also helps that Woody Allen's dialog matches how great of a physical comedian he can be. There is a sequence where he has to impersonate a robot, which is hysterical. Keaton and Allen also have great chemistry throughout this film.

Very funny movie.

Luna Schlosser: What's it feel like to be dead for 200 years?
Miles Monroe: Like spending a weekend in Beverly Hills.
Super Reviewer
½ April 25, 2008
Not funny and pretty boring and stupid. It really amazes me that he makes as many movies as he does.
Super Reviewer
July 30, 2007
In a rush to homage dystopian fantasies and the slapstick comedy of Chaplin, Keaton, the Marx brother and Harold Lloyd; Woody Allen makes a silly, small scale, mildly funny film with a wild soundtrack and the always fresh presence of the talented, young and beautiful Diane Keaton.
Super Reviewer
January 24, 2008
Health-food store owner Miles Monroe is accidentally frozen for 200 years and wakes up in a weird future dystopia where Diane Keaton is not considered too annoying to be a female lead. It's a lot of fun as a collection of one liners ("I haven't had sex for 200 years... 204 if you count my marriage") and slapstick bits that recall the great silent comedians, but the plot is little more than a framework to hang bits from.
Super Reviewer
½ October 12, 2007
It's hysterical. Simply and sublimely hysterical.
Super Reviewer
September 21, 2007
I guess you either love or hate Woody Allen. I know so many people who would adore this film if I was only capable of making them watch it. It's their loss. The summit of Woody's "funny" peiod.
Super Reviewer
½ January 23, 2007
I have a really irrational hatred for this movie. It's just...annoying. It tries way too hard and generally fails.
Super Reviewer
½ November 5, 2006
I remember liking it even though I haven't seen it in about 10 years.
Super Reviewer
September 7, 2011
Hmmm... Woody seems to have kept the philosophy to a minimum this time. A lot of the jokes hit the mark, but overall it just feels like another pointless comedy that fails to say anything important. Woody can do much better.
Super Reviewer
July 24, 2012
I found it a lot less funny than most of the other Woody Allen movies I've seen.
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