Nothing brings the bonds of sisterhood closer together quite like booze, illicit drugs and deviant sex. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ike Barinholtz and Academy Award winner Dianne Wiest star in Sisters.
Cast of Characters:
Kate Ellis – Tina Fey
Maura Ellis – Amy Poehler
Brinda – Maya Rudolph
James – Ike Barinholtz
Bucky Ellis – James Brolin
Pazuzu – John Cena
Dave – John Leguizamo
Deana Ellis – Dianne Wiest
Director – Jason Moore
Screenplay – Paula Pell
Producer – Tina Fey & Jay Roach
Rated R crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use
Middle-aged sisters Kate (Tina Fey) and Maura Ellis (Amy Poehler) are completely stunned at the sudden news that their parents Bucky (James Brolin) and Deana (Dianne Wiest) are selling the family home in Orlando. While cleaning out their old room for their folks, which for whatever reason, has been left the way it was back when they were in high school, they’re flood with all those fond memories of back in the day, particularly their wild and crazy “Ellis Island” parties.
Wanting to turn the clock back and get their freak on once again before the new strait-laced owners take over, Kate and Maura decide to throw one last wild fling with all their old pals.
Even though I’m not a fan of either Tina Fey or Amy Poehler (who still turned in wonderful voice work for Inside Out), for some reason, sparks fly whenever you get them together (I may think the Golden Globes is a joke of an award show, but their opening monologue, when they hosted in 2013, was great).
Of course, Baby Mama notwithstanding.
Consider it the Wayne’s World effect. Have you seen Mike Myers or Dana Carvey’s overall film career (Myers’s cameos in Inglourious Basterds and Mystery, Alaska don’t count, and let me stop you Austin Powers fans before you speak up ’cause that trilogy did nothing for me)? It sucks, yet you get them together for two Wayne’s World movies and they manage to work wonders. Chemistry is funny like that, and both Fey and Poehler exhibit it effortlessly here in their second feature film pairing, Sisters.
Director Jason Moore and screenwriter Paula Pell have a fairly easy job with this film. The story may be thin, essentially a drunken get-together of middle-agers in the throes of their mid-life crises, but Sisters all comes down to this – is it funny? Thankfully, the answer is yes.
Part of the joy of this film is undoubtedly watching Fey and Poehler go back-and-forth with each other; they’re naturals together. But what I also enjoyed out of them is the little switcheroo they pull off with their characters. It’d be highly predictable to see Fey as straight-laced and Poehler as immature, which is how it was for Baby Mama. This time around, though, it’s Fey that’s the jobless, homeless woman-child of the family and Poehler as her saint of a sister who’s an overachiever to a fault, and both sell the change of character pace to great effect.
Backing up the duo is an wide assembling of fellow past and current SNL alums (Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan, Chris Parnell), former MADtv alum Ike Barinholtz, WWE star John Cena (following up his funny supporting turn in Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck with another send-up of his tough guy image) and screen veterans James Brolin, Dianne Wiest and John Leguizamo (here nowhere as irritating as he’s capable of being when mishandled). It may be the Fey and Poehler show, but the supporting cast do get their moments in the spotlight as well.
Credit should also be given to Moore and Pell. Yes, this is a comedy which means it hinges mainly on whether or not its two leads can deliver laughs, but Moore does a solid job at keeping a tight enough focus on the proceedings (a stark contrast to Jonathan Levine’s disappointing The Night Before which was all over the place). I do say tight enough ’cause one of his slip-ups is that at nearly two hours long, a little more judicious trimming of some of the improvised segments wouldn’t have hurt. Even with his missteps accounted for, Moore still does a fine job at making sure things don’t get too carried away, which can be an Achilles’ heel for raunchy, frat-house style comedies that devote a good portion of its comic setpieces to improvisation.
The script by Paula Pell (also an SNL veteran) embraces its R-rating, but it also acknowledges something that Adam Sandler and his dimwitted Happy Madison buddies never do, and that’s point out the absurdity and foolishness of late 30/early 40-somethings clinging to those juvenile, immature high school antics of yesteryear (one funny and rather telling moment has someone threatening to call the adults’ children). There’s actually an arc to Fey and Poehler’s characters. Their entitled, adolescent behavior doesn’t go unchecked, and not in the forced, tacky bull shit kind of way Sandler’s films are always guilty of doing.
So in a way, this film is able to have its cake and eat it too in how it’s able to revel in its Animal House mentality, yet still have its characters grow and learn from it all.
Though it’s stretched out a tad longer than it should be, Sisters is bolstered by its team-up of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, whose spot-on chemistry and comic timing together provide more than enough laughs to cover the film’s missteps. While the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg team-up Daddy’s Home isn’t out ’til Christmas, regardless of whether or not it performs well, Sisters at least does its part to help close out a year that hasn’t really been the best for comedy on a solid note.
I give Sisters a B+ (★★★).
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