“Sisters” Movie Review


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     The boys had their turn to party hard in the recent “The Night Before”, so why not let the girls have some fun too?  I bring up the comparison since I was left with virtually the same feeling after viewing “Sisters” as both  feature a well known cast of comedians whooping it up while consuming a copious amount of drugs and alcohol.  And that’s what the raunchy comedy genre has devolved into these days.  Gone are the witty and original screenplays that made hits out of films such as “American Pie”, “Wedding Crashers”, and “The 40 Year Old Virgin” which set the stage for the kind of film “Sisters” wants to be, but can’t muster the laughs needed to measure up.  Though it’s undeniable the film’s stars, Amy Poehler and Tiny Fey, possess a natural chemistry on screen to go along with impeccable comic timing, first time feature writer Paula Pell,  herself a veteran “Saturday Night Live” scribe, is unable to craft a story worthy of their talents.  Even director Jason Moore, whose first feature, “Pitch Perfect”, shows he has the chops to make something like this work, falters by allowing the film to lose steam long before it reaches its absurd 118 minute running time.

     “Sisters” functions less like an actual story and more like a showcase of sorts, moving from scene to scene within the ultimate party as its bit players are each given their opportunity to engage in various forms of silliness.  Sisters Maura (Poehler) and Kate (Fey) are both single and struggling in various ways as they navigate life in their early 40s.  Then Maura, dubbed the more responsible of the two siblings, gets an unexpected call from their parents, Bucky (James Brolin) and Deana (Dianne Wiest), who announce they are selling their home in Orlando and opting for life in a senior condo community instead.  For normal grown children, this shouldn’t be cause for alarm, but apparently both Maura and Kate have a significant attachment to their childhood home and balk at their parent’s decision.  So much so that Maura buys her financially struggling sister a plane ticket to come to Orlando and try to convince their parents to keep the house.

     Of course Bucky and Deana will have none of it, leaving the dejected Maura and Kate to wallow in memories of the past as they sift through their remaining belongings in their childhood bedroom.  All of this leads to what will occupy the entire second and third acts of the film as the two hatch an idea to have a massive party in the empty house before the new owners take over for good.  The preparations for the party might offer the best bits in the film with a memorable exchange between Maura and her Korean nail lady, Hae-Won (Greta Lee), as well as the introduction to a longstanding rift between Kate and an old high school girlfriend, played by Maya Rudolph, who they run into at Big Lots.  There is also the introduction of a potential love interest for Maura, a neighbor named James (Ike Barinholtz), who comes into play later.  After acquiring the necessary party ingredients, they hit up Facebook and invite a long list of former high school friends and acquaintances to a party they dub Ellis Island (Ellis is their last name), a throwback to the parties of their high school years.  Pell and Moore’s primary theme here is that of reliving past glory with Maura and Kate eager to move on from the pain of divorce and the difficulties associated with failing at life by once again experiencing a time they remember as being the best.

     Only problem is the group of former high school cronies they have invited are proverbial sticks in the mud.  When the party starts, the room is occupied by dozens of people who seem as though they haven’t been to a social gathering of this magnitude in decades, which is a far cry from the atmosphere the duo is trying to create.  That is until Hae-Won arrives with her Korean friends, and Pazuzu (John Cena, who is not nearly as funny as he was in “Trainwreck”), the local drug dealer, infuses the crowd with some of his high end product.  That’s about the time the party turns into an all out bash that lasts for well over an hour of screen time and offers endless raunchy dialogue and gags that have little function in the story, but seem to be there in order to justify the film’s “R” rating.  If you find people who yell and scream obscenities at the top of their lungs, paint pictures of male genitalia on the walls, or mischievously and purposely tear a home apart, than “Sisters” just may be the film you are looking for.  If not, you're likely to chalk it up as another lame attempt at a few laughs by positioning a couple well known stars in an overused scenario.  The antics here will only remind you of superior party films like “Animal House” and “Old School”, but do nothing to set themselves apart.

     All that said, both Poehler and Fey have their funny moments.  In particular, it’s their clothing choices throughout the film that garner most of the laughs.  One scene that has them trying on party dresses at a store shows just how far away each of them is from the glory days they are trying to now duplicate.  The set design, especially their childhood bedroom, is well stalked with all sorts of 80’s pop culture memorabilia that is sure to bring a smile to anyone who grew up in that era.  And there is also no doubt how genuinely likable both Poehler and Fey are, most notably when the script lets them improv a bit in order to come up with those one of kind moments these two ladies are quite capable of providing.  Unfortunately, there’s not nearly enough of that, and “Sisters” falters with a predictable ending that goes the sentimental route as these raunchy comedies often do in order to make us feel good after laughing (or rolling your eyes) at all the dick jokes. 

GRADE: C-