Director: Jason Moore
Cast: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, John Leguizamo, Bobby Moynihan, Greta Lee, John Cena, Madison Davenport, Rachel Dratch, Santino Fontana, Britt Lower, Samantha Bee, Matt Oberg, Kate McKinnon
MPAA Rating: (for crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use)
Running Time: 1:58
Release Date: 12/18/15
Review by Mark Dujsik | December 17, 2015
When they were teenagers, they used to party like they were going to live forever. "Tonight, let's party like Vikings," Kate Ellis (Tina Fey) shouts to rile up her middle-aged friends and acquaintances, "because we know we could die tomorrow!" It's a hell of a rallying cry that kicks off the blow-out party in Sisters, a movie about two siblings with diametrically opposed personalities who are fed up with the lives they have and believe that returning to the good old days will fix everything. It's a comedy, obviously, and one that indulges a bit too much in wild situations, instead of simply relying on the sturdy, absurd foundation of people denying reality as a coping mechanism for getting older.
That means the success of the movie's humor is dependent on just how crazy those situations become. It's a movie that constantly tries to outdo its previous gag, and that process becomes more tiring than anything else. That's not to say the approach doesn't pay off to any degree. There are a couple of legitimately funny scenes—and one downright hilarious one—here, but there are plenty of others that have minimal or no comic impact.
Kate is the irresponsible one of the sisters. She is almost always between jobs, because she either quits in the hope of finding something better or is fired. Right now, she's living in someone else's apartment, working as a stylist, and upset that her daughter (Madison Davenport) is taking some time away from her.
Maura (Amy Poehler) is the responsible one, but it hasn't gotten her much happiness. She is divorced, cares for shelter animals, and fusses over the lives of everyone she knows.
When Maura and Kate's parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) decide to sell the sisters' childhood home, they tell Maura, expecting her to tell Kate the news. The parents need the sisters to clean out their bedroom. As it turns out, the house already has been sold to a well-to-do married couple (Santino Fontana and Britt Lower), and Maura and Kate do not take the surprise well.
While going through her old things, Maura realizes that the fun teenage life she thought she had was actually a drag of dull activities and serving as the "party mom" while Kate had all the real fun. Kate convinces her sister to have a final party at the house—one where Maura will get to be the irresponsible one and Kate will be the one who makes sure everyone gets home safely.
Poehler and Fey are two of our more reliable comic actresses, but the screenplay by Paula Pell betrays the pair's most vital asset: their relatability. In an attempt to make them equal in terms of flaws, both characters turn out to be too broad for their own good. Kate's rashness moves from a naïve concept of how to live to becoming childish. When she spots the sold sign in front of her childhood home, Kate takes to having a screaming hissy fit on the front lawn, rolling in the grass and pounding her fists on the ground.
Maura, on the other hand, becomes an awkward busybody who can't help but get involved in other people's lives and has a difficult time communicating with people on a human level. While flirting with a neighbor named James (Ike Barinholtz), she takes her innuendo about his gardening too far, and it errs just on the side of creepy instead of cute.
The characters' more obnoxious traits tone down a bit once the party starts, although a lot of that has to do with their proximity to an assortment of odd part-goers. They start off as normal, unassuming folks who don't want to stay out too late and treat a party as an opportunity for quiet conversation in their isolated corners of the room. That's funny because of how it flies in the face of Maura and Kate's expectations, but as the party becomes exactly what the sisters hoped it would be, the side characters do exactly what we expect they will. There are a few notable characters in the bunch: Bobby Moynihan as a guy who tries too hard to be funny (When he accidentally snorts a potent drug, that tendency becomes frantic), Maya Rudolph as Kate's old adversary who desperately wants to be involved in the party, and Greta Lee as a stone-faced manicurist.
There's plenty of debauchery and destruction. Some of it is amusing. Some of it is not. It does get to be so much that the movie's funniest scene, featuring James getting a musical ballerina figurine stuck in a sunless orifice ("It's spinning inside," he says, before doing his own little dance to stand up without too much pain), seems almost subtle by comparison.
It's a lot of effort on the parts of the cast and director Jason Moore. The comic payoffs don't match the exerted energy displayed within Sisters.
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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