Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, John Cena
Written by: Paula Pell
Running Time: 118 mins
Release date: 12th December 2015
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have been friends for over twenty years, working the improv comedy circuit before becoming the queen of Saturday Night Live. They both have had enormous success on TV with 30 Rock and Parks and Recreations respectively and were the darlings of the Golden Globes for three years as the hosts, spiralling gentle one-liners at the celebrity audience. Yet their film career together is only one, Baby Mama, an underrated comedy about surrogacy. Now they are back in the kind of comedy you’d expect Seth Rogan or Will Ferrell to star, a female variation on the foul-mouthed bromance comedies, which has more to do with charm than repulsiveness.
Kate and Maura Ellis are very different sisters. Kate is a former wild child who is a single mum to a teenage daughter and is completely irresponsible, while Maura is the caring, sensible one just recently divorce. They discover that their parents are selling their family home and so the sisters must clear out their room. Filled with nostalgia, the women decide to throw one last party, one to equal the chaos of the ones from their teenage years. Only this time, Kate will be the party mum, a sober voice of reason, while Maura allows herself to let loose and try to win the affections of local handyman, James. Unfortunately, Kate is not the best party mum and so things get a little out of hand.
With the party as the central piece, reminiscent of the Peter Sellers 60’s comedy, The Party, this is an examination of how, no matter how old we are, we cannot let go of our youth. Director Jason Moore, who directed the first Pitch Perfect film, allows the script to work its magic while giving the leads plenty of opportunity to improvise and rift off each other, something that Fey and Poehler are experts.
The difference between them improvising and, say Seth Rogan, is that they have a far more superior idea of comedy. They are comfortable around each other. They know each other well and so the smart one-liners come quick and fast. A scene in which they meet former school acquaintance, Brinda, in a supermarket (a woman who Kate despises) allows for some juicy quips, mainly about Brinda’s enormous belt buckle.
Where the film does fall down is in its length. Some scene go on far too long while others do seem a little pointless. The development of Kate’s character, a woman who still thinks she can act and dress like a teenager, even though she has a wiser and level-headed daughter herself, seems a little muddled and doesn’t quite work, even as a redemption tool. It also seems like it wants to go further with its gross-out attitude but keeps pulling back. The most outrageous moment involves handyman James and a ballerina music box. Yet he even plays safe there.
Having said that, I laughed a lot throughout. A scene where Maura tries to pronounce the Korean pedicurist is hilarious, while the annoying school clown whose terrible jokes fall flat who becomes a raving monster after re-enacting the cocaine scene from Scarface is hilarious. At the heart beats Fey and Poehler, a comedy double act who are both incredibly talented and a pleasure to watch.
Fey, playing against type, as Kate, has less to do than her partner yet still manages to pull out some killer lines and its good to see her let her hair down. Normally the straight, mumsy type, Fey relishes as the former good-time girl. It’s just a pity there wasn’t more to her character. Meanwhile, Poehler, as the more gentle Maura, really goes to town, especially during the party. She sometimes doesn’t have to do much except throw a look and the laughs come flying. Apart, these women are funny. Together they shine.
Sisters is not perfect by a long shot, yet in a year full of unfunny, gross-out comedies, it’s more a delight than a chore to spend time with these two comedy queens. Shorten it by 20 minutes, make more of Fey’s character and push the boundaries a little, we might have a comedy classic on our hands. Instead we have a decent comedy that may get lost among the hundreds of others like this. Still, if you want a giggle, it’s worth checking out but it’s time to find something to really show off the talents of these two women.