Sisters (2015)

Director: Jason Moore
Writer: Paula Pell
Cinematographer: Barry Peterson
Composer: Christophe Beck
Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, Dianne Wiest, James Brolin, John Cena, John Leguizamo, Bobby Moynihan, Rachel Dratch, Brian d’Arcy James, Chris Parnell, Dan Byrd, Kate McKinnon, Heather Matarazzo, Ann Harada, Jon Glaser, Samantha Bee.

Maura and Kate Ellis are told by their parents that their childhood home has been sold and if they wish to salvage anything from their old bedroom they must return home to Orlando, Florida and clear it up. Once home (which is unbelievably completely empty and packed except for the sisters’ messy and cluttered time capsule of a bedroom) the now adult women decide to throw one last shindig, just like their high school days. While the party is slow to get things started, eventually it turns into a raucous and over-the-top rager. The only thing setting this film apart from recent history cray-cray party movies like Project X or 21 and Over is the fact that this particular movie features 40-something people being ridiculous, as opposed to college students.

The film is mostly an excuse to allow Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to team up again. The comedy duo first met when doing theater together in Chicago in the 90s. They ended up working together on Saturday Night Live, even co-hosting the Weekend Update segment, marking the first time two women ever did so. Poehler had a bit-part in the Fey-penned and starring film Mean Girls as well as showing up on an episode of 30 Rock. The two co-starred in 2008’s Baby Mama, appeared together in the Anchorman sequel, and co-hosted the Golden Globes together three times. Clearly these two are great friends and absolutely love working together.

Over the years, between the comedians’ tenure on SNL, their respective television shows they created, produced or starred in, the books they authored, and all their other media appearances, Fey and Poehler have proven time and again that they are truly funny and have a phenomenal sense of humor. I have read said books, watched every episode of their shows, and am a big fan of both of them, together and alone. That said Baby Mama was not my favorite movie, so I was apprehensive of this second team-up, because while they are great in print and on TV, their movies are not always the most enjoyable or the most successful. The good news? Sisters is a much better film than Baby Mama – it’s funnier, better casted, and is better written. It is not perfect, though.

I get that those who have worked together on SNL describe the experience as akin to a weekly battle against the clock to churn out week after week a watchable show and this forms and strengthens relationships amongst the cast, I really do get it. But one of the unfortunate results is that these strong friendships become work relationships, and some people who should not always have certain roles are given them simply because of friendship and not necessarily talent. Just because someone is good at improv and is good at working on a sketch television show does not mean that they are good in other roles, be them on episodic television or in feature films. Sometimes the combinations are fantastic and welcome, but not always. I could easily make a case that the early 2000s female cast of SNL was one of the best combinations and the funny women work together seamlessly. Seeing Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch in Sisters, then, and seeing them run lines with Fey and Poehler is welcome and a whole lot of fun. Kate McKinnon, though, as much as I truly love her, has absolutely no reason to be in the film. Chris Parnell and Bobby Moynihan, on the other hand, are probably the worst things about the movie, especially Moynihan.

There is a bit of cringeworthy acting also, surprisingly, with the casting of Dianne Wiest and James Brolin as the two sisters’ parents. Wiest has won two Academy Awards, one Golden Globe, and two Emmys (and has received several other nominees for her film, stage, and television work) – I love her and so many of her roles, she clearly is a phenomenal actress, but she is not very funny and does not possess much comedic timing. All the scenes Wiest and Brolin are in somewhat fall apart and land with a dull thud. The actress playing Fey’s daughter is grating and extremely annoying. Ike Barinholtz, who plays Poehler’s love interest in the film, does his best and holds his own, but his scenes aren’t always funny or seamless, some of them feel awkward and should have been given extra takes. A surprise in the film, though, is John Cena, who hadn’t really impressed me in Trainwreck, but this time around all his scenes were hilarious and provided me with the biggest laughs – the athlete definitely has comedic timing and could give Dianne Wiest some lessons in how to deliver a line, because his role as a thuggish drug dealer was brilliantly portrayed.

There are funny scenes, some gross-out ones, and sometimes the film was just so over the top and things got out of hand. I enjoyed it and had a good time watching, it definitely entertained me while the snow apocalypse was taking place last weekend, and it’s always nice to see two actresses I find so funny in a movie they clearly had a great time making. Is the film perfect? Far from it. But sometimes it doesn’t always matter. No party is perfect, but the important question is whether you had fun or not. I definitely did.

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