Very funny, until it starts to feel like a disaster movie.
Movie Review #1,060


Distributed by Universal Pictures. Comedy. Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes. Rated R for crude and sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use. Released December 18, 2015. Directed by Jason Moore. Written by Paula Pell. Starring Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, Dianne Wiest, Madison Davenport, Dan Byrd, James Brolin, John Cena, John Leguizamo, Bobby Moynihan, Greta Lee, Rachel Dratch, Kate McKinnon, Chris Parnell, and Paula Pell.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are a really, really funny pair.  If you don’t believe me, go back and watch clips from the Golden Globes, which they co-hosted from 2013 through 2015, or their respective impressions of Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton on Saturday Night Live.  That being said, their collaboration in “Sisters” offers many good laughs.  But unlike their comedy as a standup pair, “Sisters” has a plot, and it often seems to stand in the way of humor.

“Sisters” reunites sisters Kate (Tina Fey) and Maura Ellis (Amy Poehler).  Kate is a careless woman who works as a hair stylist from home, and doesn’t even bother to do a good job with that.  Even her teenage daughter is embarrassed by her sloppy way of life, and so she moves out frequently and refuses to tell her mother whom she is living with.  Maura, on the other hand, enjoys helping people.  She’s a nurse, and she’s starting to find a new life for herself after a recent divorce.

One prominent message here is that people don’t change.  The two recount stories of when they were teenagers: Kate was a party animal and would host house gatherings that she dubbed Ellis Island on a regular basis.  Maura would be the “party mom” during these parties, which essentially means that she made sure nobody died from choking on their own vomit, and of course that she served as the designated driver at these parties.  Now, both of them are in their forties, and their house is being sold.  Kate wants to bring all their high school friends back for one last ride at Ellis Island.  However, she also needs a place to stay, having been recently evicted.  Maura agrees to the party, and vows to help Kate get back on her feet again, but only under one condition: that she gets to party this time and Kate gets to be the “party mom.”

The cast is complete with members and recent alumni of Saturday Night Live.  Fey and Poehler, as already mentioned, make as great a team on film as they do on the late-night program.  Maya Rudolph plays a former wannabe who never got invited to the Ellis Island parties, and wants revenge when she finds out she wasn’t invited to the most recent one, either.  Rachel Dratch, Chris Parnell, Paula Pell (who also wrote the screenplay), and Kate McKinnon all have their moments to amuse, as well, but the one whose performance truly takes the cake is Bobby Moynihan.  Moynihan plays a guy who loves telling jokes but isn’t funny.  But he seems ignorant to the fact that nobody’s laughing, which makes his character a laughing matter, anyway.  Kudos for the scene where Moynihan snorts cocaine and poorly impersonates the movie “Scarface”.  Maybe the one character who delivers more laughs in the entire movie is John Cena, who plays a muscular, overly serious drug dealer.

If the Ellis Island reunion were a normal party, this movie might have been a fun, albeit predictable, time.  It certainly starts off that way, but it doesn’t last long.  What starts as a house party becomes an out-of-control apocalypse in “Sisters”.  Every step in the process of gradually demolishing the Ellis house is meant as a joke, but the feeling seeing it all happen grows tiresome and even a little stressful to watch.  Watching a character on drugs spray painting a gigantic penis onto a wall is rather amusing.  Seeing a group of Asian characters pour an entire container of laundry detergent into a washing machine to make a giant bubble bath flood the house, not so much.  At that point, we’re not laughing; we’re dreading the conclusion.  By the time the conclusion finally arrives, there’s a massive sinkhole in the family’s backyard, and the house is in absolutely no condition to be sold anytime soon.  Sure, the idea of destroying a house on the market can be very funny; I just feel writer Paula Pell took the concept way too far.


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