It’s no secret that two time Golden Globe Award winner Tina Fey (Date Night, This is Where I Leave You) and Golden Globe Award winner Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation, They Came Together) are best friends. They worked on Saturday Night Live together, Poehler briefly guest starred in one of the live episodes of Fey’s series 30 Rock and the pair have made regular appearences together as presenters at recent awards ceremonies so I suppose it was only a matter of time until they did a movie together. Sisters is that movie and while it takes a while to get off the ground, when it does get going it provides proof positive that these are two of the funniest actresses working today.
The pair play sisters; Poehler is the socially reserved but stable Maura and Fey is the wildly unreliable Kate, who struggles to connect with her teenage daughter Haley (Madison Davenport), who happens to be more mature then she is. When Maura and Kate’s mother (two time Academy Award winner Dianne West; Bullets Over Broadway, Hannah and Her Sisters) and father (two time Golden Globe Award winner James Brolin; Catch Me if You Can, Marcus Welby MD) reveal that they’re going to sell the childhood home they grew up in, the sisters are distraught. Called back to their home town to clean out their childhood bedroom, they decide to throw one last wild party to send the house off, a decision that quickly spirals out of control.
Directed by Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect, Trophy Wife) from a script by Primetime Emmy Award winner Paula Pell (30 Rock, Saturday Night Live), Sisters is slow to get started, but once the film actually gets to the party, it really kicks off. The opening scenes are crucial in establishing the characters and setting up the movie’s underlying themes but they drag a bit, lacking the humour the film mines from it’s manic party scenes later on. That said, they do tap into the underlying feeling of nostalgia that the film’s premise generates; the pining for childhood; and these sequences make the characters’ choices understandable as the film goes on, even if they’re not particularly intelligent.
Once the party begins though, the film is one long streak of great comedy. Pell’s script and Moore’s directorial decisions are extremely effective in illustrating the party’s slow descent into insanity; both working in tandem to provide a continuing cacophony of bad decisions and drug filled lunacy that eventually crescendos in a spectacular finale that deftly ties together the movie’s themes and humour with some brilliant visual setpieces and creative editing.
Also effective is the subplot between Maura and James (Ike Barinholtz; The Mindy Project, Neighbors), a neighbour who Maura finds herself awkwardly attempting to woo. It’s a sweet storyline and it provides an emotional backbone for the film’s out of control comedy while complimenting Maura’s character in a really wonderful way. Poehler and Barinholtz share some great chemistry and the storyline provides a more grounded through line for the audience to hang on to amidst the jokes and visual gags.
The cast does fine work throughout the film, trading on their chemistry to light a fire beneath the less successful jokes and ably pulling off the great ones with flair. Fey and Poehler are brilliant as usual, while Barinholtz is suitably charming as the supporting male lead. Primetime Emmy Award nominee Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, The Spoils Before Dying) does some great work in a manic antagonistic role and John Cena (Trainwreck, Daddy’s Home) is perfectly cast as an unflappable drug dealer, brilliantly utilizing his physicality and displaying a surprisingly strong sense of comic timing.
Sisters is a hilarious movie once it gets going, but even through that first hit or miss half hour it still remains suitably entertaining. A strong script and an excellent cast prove to be huge assets throughout and if nothing else I hope Fey and Poehler gain enough star power to keep teaming up in the years to come.