Sometimes the grade of a comedy hinges on its leads to make it worth seeing. In the case of Sisters -the third collaboration between Tina Fey and Amy Poehler – if it wasn’t for the two funny ladies’ fantastic chemistry the film wouldn’t be as good as it is. This isn’t to say it’s a great film but it is better than the last outing of these Saturday Night Live alumnus (Baby Mama), if only because it’s R-rated and putting Fey in a role against type. If you’re looking for cheap laughs and the easy joke getting it’s bell rung, then this movie will satisfy you.
It doesn’t seem like a big leap for Pitch Perfect director Jason Moore to land this, at times, raunchy comedy. Pitch Perfect, although not a movie I particularly enjoyed, was a film that skirted the line between PG-13 and restricted and definitely had its share of prat falls, gross out body humour and sexual innuendo. Saturday Night Live writer Paula Pell seems to know exactly how to write for Fey and Poehler as well, as the movie plays very well into their hands. At the same time, it leaves the film open many times for lengthy gags involving name pronunciation (with the very funny Greta Lee playing a Korean manicurist Hae-Won). Not everything plays as well but it all evens out.
The film is about two sisters, Kate (Fey) and Maura (Poehler). Kate is a perpetually jobless hair stylist who lives in a childish haze. Her teenage daughter is fed up with her mother’s lack of responsibility and threatens to move away from her. Maura is the responsible homebody who still clings to her aging parents (James Brolin and Diane Wiest), because her biggest fear is that they will pass away. Then the parents drop a huge bomb on her: they are selling the family home and moving to a retirement community.
This sends both daughters into very different spirals. Kate wants the house so she can move in with her parents and have a stable household for her daughter to grow up in without having to be responsible about it. Maura is afraid about the change it will bring and the memories of better times that will vanish. These are very small pieces that are only consequential to move the story along. None of the moral pieces or “dramatic” bits work very well.
In an act of childish defiance, the two girls decide to throw a house party in the home that has already been put on the market and sold before they were informed. Each has their own reason for putting this party together. Kate’s is all to stick it to her parents but a small piece of it is for her little sister, Maura. Always being the good girl, Maura never got to be the fun one at the party and had never had sex with a man in her childhood bed. All in one night, Kate hopes to change this.
The cast assembled around Fey and Poehler add some good comedic clout to make the film a pretty enjoyable “Project X” style housewrecker movie – just not quite as mean spirited as that one. It features some fun turns from past and present SNLers like Kate McKinnon as the leader of a group of lesbians, Bobby Moynihan as an obnoxiously unfunny class clown and the always fantastic Maya Rudolph as Kate’s high school nemesis Brinda. Rudolph is definitely my favourite part of this movie as she always digs deep into her bag of comedy tricks. I feel like she is constantly underrated.
The male component of this film also shines brightly. Ike Barinholtz gets to showcase himself a bit in this one, after playing a supporting friend in Seth Rogen’s Neighbours. This time he gets to play the romantic lead for Amy Poehler in an awkward love story peppered with hilariously off handed banter between the two. I really could have done without some of the bodily humor in this storyline. It feels massively played out (you’ll know it when you see it).
I really feel like I need to talk about how much I enjoy John Cena in films these days, especially comedies this year. After pretty much stealing the film earlier in Trainwreck, Cena shows up in Sisters as a tattooed up drug dealer who has every drug ever made including the morning after pill, Plan B and chewable Flintstones vitamins. The delivery on all of his tough guy lines had me cracking up every time he was on screen. He might be worth the admission alongside Fey and Poehler.
Is this film original at all? No, it’s your standard restricted comedy fare, full of ridiculous banter, drunk comedy, drug trips and multiple ways to destroy residential property. If you aren’t a fan of SNL style comedy or Fey and Poehler themselves then this film is going to grate your nerves for the whole of its almost two hour run time. On the other hand, if you enjoyed Baby Mama, well then you’re in for a fun time and I’m right there with you. I give Sisters a three out of five.