Directed by Jason Moore from a screenplay by Paula Pell, Sisters is a Tina Fey and Amy Poehler vehicle that starts with promise and disintegrates into a repetitive, frothy mess. The 2015 comedy is a take on the bro-occupied party genre, which means it swims through some pretty monotonous territory and suffers from a lack of concision.
But it’s funny, sometimes uproariously so, and that helps Sisters get over a lot of rough patches. While Judd Apatow tried to make good on a party girl promise in Trainwreck, Moore’s movie actually delivers without selling out too much. It also tackles the notion of watching one’s parents move on, which can be a difficult transition for those still attached to the notion of the “old family home.”
Poehler is Maura, a nurse who adores her dog and makes up little motivational quotes that she puts on business cards. Fey is Kate, a hair-dressing single mom with a daughter (Madison Davenport) and a little trouble with responsibility. Maura is stunned to find out that their parents (Dianne Wiest and Josh Brolin) are selling the childhood home, so she dispatches Kate to join her on a trip to Florida.
As the sisters arrive, they discover that the house has already been sold and most of the stuff has been moved out. They’re tasked with cleaning out their bedrooms, but they decide to throw one last big party. They invite old friends from high school, with the exception of Brinda (Maya Rudolph). Maura hopes to hook up with the hot neighbour James (Ike Barinholtz) and things get crazy.
While most of Sisters concerns the party, the funniest moments come as Poehler and Fey prepare for the bash. There are amusing scenes as they confront the new owners, the Geernts (Santino Fontana and Britt Lower), and there some side-splitting lines when they run into Brinda at a store. A moment at a nail salon feels tacked-on but amusing, with Hae Won (Greta Lee) stealing the scene.
There are many performers involved in Sisters, including SNL favourites like Rachel Dratch, Chris Parnell, Bobby Moynihan, and Kate McKinnon. John Leguizamo has a turn as a sleazy pal, while John Cena is funny as a drug dealer who wants to hang around a while. Samantha Bee also stars as a suburban mom with a wild side.
Fey and Poehler have an easy chemistry and they pass as sisters on the basis of camaraderie alone. They build tremendous imagery with their dazzling rattle of jokes, plus they make good on an extended gag at a clothing store that runs way too long but is somehow way too funny.
The revelry starts off on the right foot, with a gathering of fortysomethings trying to make it happen. Bee’s character shows up with her kid, for crying out loud, and the get-together is a meek assembly of people no longer interested in letting their hair down. Dratch is particularly good as a woman obsessed with her own mortality.
But when things get out of control, they really get out of control. The party spins less like a droll look at people too old to get down and functions like every other college bash on the block, complete with a thumping lesbian DJ and a group of Koreans from the nail salon. Blue paint is poured into the pool and blah blah blah.
Sadly, there’s nothing brave about Sisters. For all the favour it piles up in the first 30 or so minutes, it trails off into disoriented chaos and imitates a genre in need of some criticism. Fey and Poehler are hysterical and they damn near almost grind this thing through the muck. But it’s still missing that edge, that extra bite that could’ve sent this comedy into some truly audacious territory.