Ah yes, the Disney Channel Original Movie, otherwise known as the DCOM. Remember the at-home pizza party premieres for favorites like Smart House, Cadet Kelly, and Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century? I still sometimes sing the Get A Clue song when I’m cooking dinner. These movies made a huge impact on me back in the day and The Slumber Party awakened my inner preteen again.
This new DCOM (now streaming on Disney+) follows four friends who are hypnotized by a surprise party entertainer, Mesmer (played by Tituss Burgess), and have no memory of what happened the night before. Their fearless leader, Ana Maria (played by Valentina Herrera), disappeared and her dad’s getting remarried on her birthday. Missing eyebrows, toilet paper teepees, and stolen hedgehog floats turn this coming-of-age friendship story into a clue-finding mystery adventure.
The Awkward Phase
The opening scene for this film will seem familiar if you are a fan of Pixar’s Turning Red. Our main character, Megan (played by Darby Camp) breaks the fourth wall and backtracks our tale for context in a fast-paced setup I thought was clean and funny. The Slumber Party really leaned into first crush moments, which I’m always a fan of, making me laugh more than I expected, thanks to how The Slumber Party made me feel seen.
One of my favorite characters, Veronica (played by Alex Cooper Cohen) takes parkour classes and is soon-to-be Ana Maria’s new stepsister. As the awkward new member of the group, her birthday surprise ends up being the reason everyone loses their memory of what appears to be an epic night (here the plot pays homage to The Hangover) and they have to retrace their steps (in PG) to find their missing friend.
Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to go to sleepovers. I feel like it’s a rule engraved in the Latinx parental handbook and you never know why until your cousin tells you about a time that her friend’s friend had a bad experience with someone else’s tio. You know, valid warnings that were passed down to our parents to avoid unnecessary trauma. So sleepovers as innocent and a fun girl’s night wasn’t ever a memory I was able to make growing up.
As an adult, I am fully aware of my parent’s worries about sleeping over at a friend’s house but as a preteen, it really affected my confidence in my friendships. My mom would always pick me up a few hours before everyone was about to go to bed and that’s when all the fun was about to begin, just like in this film. While I know the fears of having a brave double-dare urge to shave off one of my eyebrows were not my parents’ highest concern around sleepovers, this film healed parts of me that wondered what all the innocent fun could have been.
More Ana Maria, Please
I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of the main characters in The Slumber Party is Latina and the sleepover centers around a Latinx household. Ana Maria’s parents are divorced and her dad is getting remarried. A big taboo in a lot of Latinx families still and it is refreshing to see that on screen. Especially when the mom is spilling tea on the phone saying that the wedding kinda-sorta did bother her a bit––I want more chisme.
Since the plot of the movie has Megan, Page (played by Emmy Liu-Wang), and Veronica on the hunt for Ana Maria, her character doesn’t get enough screen time. It makes me want to rewatch Disney’s Diary of a Future President again. I want a whole series on Ana Maria’s new family dynamic and what it would look like starting high school with three supportive friends.
Is The DCOM Back?
I think what makes a DCOM as an adult is nostalgia and this movie had hints of it. The onion-eating contest reminds me of Beethoven (a movie I often rewinded on repeat). We even get a Highschool Musical Troy and Gabriella tribute between a surprising (and not sister-approved) meet-cute moment between Veronica and Page’s brother, Mikey (played by Dallas Liu).
While the original DCOM films will always have a special place in my heart, I’m glad Disney is bringing back stories for ages that often get missed. I feel like we get one-off stories of female friendship in that awkward pocket of growth between middle school and high school and less often do those stories star Latinas. Let’s hope there are more opportunities for fun sleepover tales where a group of friends has the opportunity to make some memories together.