I find I’m much more likely to enjoy a funny science fiction movie than a “serious” one. The serious ones too often get solemn and usually go off the rails at some point. It’s so much more fun to see something that takes the tropes of real SF and plays with them, movies like Idiocracy, or Paul, or Galaxy Quest. Or with horror moves, Shaun of the Dead.
This movie is the grand-daddy of funny SF. Woody takes a legitimate story line of frozen sleep and takes off with it. Frozen? So when they open him up, he’s wrapped in tin foil, even with his glasses on, like they used to do with TV dinners. He gets to make snide comments on things from the past that they show him, some of them now a bit dated, like Howard Cosell. (Dated? I guess so, being dead. I wonder how many young people even know who he was?)
Then there is the plot of the revolutionary underground trying to overthrow the repressive government … repressive behind the scenes, because like Brave New World or The Time Machine, everything looks hunky-dory on the surface, with beautiful, hedonistic people and every modern convenience, including personal robots. Then there’s the Orgasmatron, sexual satisfaction in three seconds without all that physical mess, and the mysterious Orb, which gives you a high when you handle it.
As usual for this time in his career, there is a fair amount of slapstick that works indifferently well, and often seems out of place beside his more cerebral jokes and sight gags. Exception: When he finds a hydroponic garden filled with gigantic crops. A stick of celery and a banana as big as canoes. He peels the banana and then slips on the peel. Funny! Or the discovery of a 200-year-old Volkswagen, that starts right up as soon as he turns the key.
Wiki says he consulted with Isaac Asimov and Ben Bova as to whether or not certain things in the script might be possible in the future. Well, in a sense, I guess anything is possible 200 years from now, and Isaac and Ben have no more credentials to paint a picture of it than you or I. Certainly some of it is, but if either of them put their stamp of approval of cloning Our Leader’s nose into his clothes, they should be ashamed of themselves. Something I hadn’t remembered: Sleeper won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.