Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are a comedy team so gosh darn irresistible that pretty much anything they do together is worth watching. Case in point would be ‘Sisters’.
The movie is a party comedy. You know the type, where a couple of sad so-and-sos decide to throw a big bash in an attempt to elevate themselves above sad so-and-so status. Yeah, this is one of those. The difference is that the so-and-sos in question are grown-ass adults, as are their partymates, making it all delightfully awkward. And of course, those so-and-sos are also Fey and Poehler, whose magical comedic chemistry elevates the movie above its clichés and easy feel good messaging. It’s a better movie than it has any right to be, even if it’s completely disposable.
As you may have gathered from the title, Fey and Poehler do indeed play sisters (shocker!). Poehler plays uptight sister Maura, the one who was always hopelessly responsible and in a perpetual state of apologetic embarrassment. Kate (Fey), on the other hand, was the party girl. She still is. Currently, she’s an unemployed nail salon specialist whose daughter (Madison Davenport) lives in that perpetual state of embarrassment. The sisters are forced to reunite when their parents (Diane Wiest and James Brolin) decide to sell the family home. In fact, they’ve already sold it. The final step requires Maura and Kate to clean up and clear out their old bedroom. So the gals come back to Orlando for the first time in years, instantly revert back to their adolescent relationship as soon as they’re trapped in a room together, and decide to throw one final rager to bid the old house goodbye. A quick Facebook invite reunites their entire graduating high school class (except for Maya Rudolph, Fey’s teenage nemesis) and things are going to get messy… well, until important lessons are learned about accepting maturity, of course.
This is very much a formulaic bad behavior comedy, the kind that revels in dirty stories and swear words and casual drug use and drunken ballyhoo. However, all such films must also be poignant moral life lessons reminding us of basic human values through debauchery. Yes, it’s tedious. Yes, the sentimental scenes must be endured to enjoy the good stuff. That’s just how these movies work. Suck it up if you want the laughs.
Thankfully, there are plenty of those (laughs that is). Obviously, Fey and Poehler deliver the lion’s share. Poehler does the best given that she’s able to tap into her impossibly awkward straight woman schtick that’s been stealing laughs from folks since ‘Parks and Rec’. Fey steps outside her typical persona to do a wild child routine and clearly delights in dropping her glasses and embracing raunch. The actresses really bring out the best in each other and many of the movie’s finest moments are clearly the result of their improv sessions. They also show no shame, piling on absurd outfits and unflattering spandex to leave no stab at humor untapped. They’re damn delightful.
Given that the two women are comedy royalty these days, they also stack their deck and fill supporting roles with friends like Maya Rudolph, Bobby Moynihan, Rachel Dratch, Samantha Bee and so forth. Everyone steps up for the cause and finds at least one scene to steal. Oddly, the best of the scene-stealers might be John Cena as a neck-tattooed drug dealer, proving once again that if you give the man a killer line, he’ll deadpan it to perfection.
The movie is stuffed with laughs. Sure, they’re mostly easy laughs, but the gang get clever from time to time. ‘SNL’ vet Paula Pell’s script has just enough sentimentality without slipping into the maudlin, and Jason Moore (‘Pitch Perfect’) directs crisply while giving his entire class plenty of room to add their own flair to the party. It works rather well, even if it never really transcends the lowly party comedy genre.
‘Sisters’ won’t win any awards and it certainly won’t threaten ‘Star Wars’ at the box office. However, as far as mainstream comedies go, you could do far worse. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s over before it wears out its welcome, and it gives two damn fine comediennes roles worthy of their talents. That’ll do just fine. Now it’s about time that Fey and Poehler actually wrote a project together because their big screen partnerships thus far only seem to be scratching the surface of their considerable talents. They can do better. Please, Hollywood, let ’em prove it.