Directed by: Jason Moore
Premise: Two middle aged sisters (Amy Poehler and Tina Fey) decide to throw one last wild party in their parent’s house before the home is sold.
What Works: Sisters exists primarily to put Tina Fey and Amy Poehler together. These two actors have an easy comic rapport going back to their days on Saturday Night Live and Fey and Poehler are enjoyable to watch. Tina Fey is generally cast in the straight role as seen in Baby Mama and 30 Rock but in Sisters she plays the irresponsible sibling and it is fun to watch Fey misbehave. The supporting cast of Sisters includes several recognizable comic performers, mostly from television backgrounds, but most memorable is former professional wrestler John Cena as a tattooed drug dealer. As he did in Trainwreck, Cena proves capable of deadpan comic delivery and he gets many of the best laughs in the movie.
What Doesn’t: Both independently and as a team, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have done great work on television but their efforts in motion pictures haven’t gone so well. Movies like Baby Mama, Date Night, Admission, and Are You Here have been at best mediocre and occasionally downright terrible and Sisters isn’t much better. Although Fey and Poehler are agreeable personalities and are generally fun to watch, they are poorly cast in this movie. For one thing they don’t look like siblings and they are never convincing as sisters. But they are also mismatched with this material. Part of the problem may be the public image that Fey and Poehler have created for themselves as smart feminist types; their roles in Sisters do not fit the niche they’ve made for themselves and Fey and Poehler don’t have the acting range to overcome it. Aside from the miscasting, Sisters suffers from a script that isn’t very funny. The laughs are hit and miss. Fey and Poehler are an odd couple but there aren’t many moments that find humor in their mismatched personalities. The joke at the root of Sisters is of middle aged people attempting to reclaim their youth by throwing one last crazy mixer but the movie doesn’t take advantage of that premise. There is something interesting at the core of the story—the futility of holding onto youth—but the gags rarely have anything to do with that. Unlike The World’s End, which dealt with similar ideas in a much more interesting way, Sisters resorts to lazy drunken scenarios. The film is comically lewd and it’s amusing to watch Tina Fey do and say inappropriate things in the same way that it’s funny when an ordinarily well behaved person gets intoxicated. But that joke wears thin very quickly and what starts as amusing becomes baffling and even cringe inducing as people who are old enough to know better pull off increasingly stupid and juvenile stunts. There are a handful of jokes that work but the filmmakers keep rehashing them and the gags are gradually beaten to death. This all becomes increasingly unbearable because of the movie’s running time. Sisters clocks in at just under two hours and it feels that length with long periods of down time between jokes. As a nostalgia piece, the filmmakers channel Generation X comedies like Sixteen Candles and Animal House but Sisters does not make use of call backs or provide funny riffs on the themes and set pieces of the films from that era. Worse, it does not seem as though the filmmakers understand the kind of movie they are riffing on. What sets a good party film like Superbad apart from wretched dreck like Project X is what the characters learn about themselves and about life. Sisters isn’t as wretched as Project X but the forced and disingenuously happy ending that supposedly confirms family values is right out of the Happy Madison play book.
Bottom Line: Sisters is just a few notches above Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups movies. It’s an uninspired slog and both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are slumming it here.
Episode: #576 (January 3, 2016)