Oh brother, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s quibbling siblings act is appallingly bad
Carol Burnett talks Sid Caesar, Jimmy Stewart, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
Numbing, mediocre, vulgar and inane, “Sisters” combines scattershot comedy, trite sentimentality and patronizing life lessons, while throwing 20 jokes a minute at the screen. Maura is a divorced nurse who tries to take care of everyone, including a “homeless” man she offers sunscreen and the chance to shower at her house.While shopping for new dresses, the Ellis sisters Maura and Kate (comedy queens Amy Poehler and Tina Fey) pull at the short hemlines and adjust the spandex ruching over their bodies.
In ”Sisters,” Tina Fey and Amy Poehler attempt to bring the most teenage of comedy genres — the house-party movie, that of keg stands and drunken hook-ups — into middle age. Older sister Kate is a wild child, mother of a daughter who is more responsible than she is, and a hothead who regularly gets fired from hair salon jobs.
Poehler, playing the more conservative of the siblings, looks down at the sequined “WERK” emblazoned across her chest and opines: “I think we need a store that is less Forever 21 and more Suddenly 42.” Lycra is a younger woman’s game – and Sisters hilariously and unapologetically belongs to the middle-aged woman. The multitalented and modest Burnett got candid with FOX411 about paving the way for women in the entertainment industry, her friendship with Jimmy Stewart, and coping with the loss of her daughter, Carrie. One of the main problems with “Sisters” is that stars Fey and Poehler, while clearly having fun together, are not on the same page in terms of their performance choices.
Looking to recapture their glory days, they throw one final high-school-style party for their classmates, which turns into the cathartic rager that a bunch of ground-down adults really need. Poehler is heartfelt and realistic as overly caring and concerned nurse Maura, while Fey performs a sloppily conceived caricature of trainwreck cougar party girl/single mom Kate. Fey produces the comedy alongside Jay Roach (Meet the Parents series) and John Lyons (Austin Powers in Goldmember), and Poehler executive produces alongside Jeff Richmond and Brian Bell from a script by Paula Pell (TV’s Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock). Fey seems as if she’s in an “SNL” sketch, only halfway committed to the part, with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge air of irony, while Poehler seems like she’s actually in a movie. Both decide to relive one of their teenage “Ellis Island” parties by throwing one last rager in their parents’ home. “Sisters” isn’t so much about their relationship as it is focused on the bash; had it not already been taken, “House Party” would have been a better title.
Maura has always been the “party mom” staying sober and keeping a watchful eye on everyone but wants to, as she anachronistically says, fly her freak flag. For your chance to WIN 1 of 100 double passes to see Sisters, simply fill out your details in the form below and while you’re there sign-up to the PerthNow eNewsletter.
The sisters are summoned back to their hometown of Orlando because their parents, played by Dianne Wiest and James Brolin, have sold their cherished family home and need their adult children to pack up their high school bedrooms, filled with ‘80s detritus. Or maybe “Adult Party.” The laughs in “Sisters” come from its 40-something stars partying like teenagers, a premise that might work as an “SNL” Digital Short, but is stretched thin here. She hopes to drink, dance, flirt with neighbor James (Ike Barinholtz), not worry about holding the hair of a vomiting guest or being the designated driver, and just have the fun that eluded her in her teen years while Kate was killing it.
It allows the film, directed by Pitch Perfect’s Jason Moore and written by Saturday Night Live’s Paula Pell, to draw on the best images of the house-party genre without being tired or wan. Also, we wanted to be more organized than a mass of videos with no particular order, so there’s a playlist and it gives a place for fans to comment on specific clips; and we’re going to add a new sketch or more every week plus bonus features; they’re kind of wonderful… some with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Bernadette Peters to name a few. Toward the end of the party, their dad admonishes the group of assembled adults to “go home before I call your children,” and that wordplay seems to be the premise that launched the whole film — what happens when the middle-aged crowd parties like they’re in high school? Instead of talking about school or college applications, the adult conversation turns to colonoscopies and parent deaths and other sad subjects — until the music, alcohol and illicit drugs come out and the inhibitions slip away. Their aging parents Bucky (James Brolin) and Deana (Dianne Wiest), who, we are reminded, are sexually active, want to sell in order to “purge” and start over.
The only questions are how crazy the party will get, how much the house will be trashed, if Kate will stick to being party mom while Maura becomes, uh, acquainted with James and, as in all movies about unauthorized blowouts, what the parents will say when or if they see the aftermath. “Sisters” has two tremendous assets in Ms. This could be the Valley party in Clueless, the crammed living room of Can’t Hardly Wait, the fraternity high jinks of Animal House or the trashed lawn of Sixteen Candles.
In the early ’50s he had one called “Caesar’s Hour” and I thought ‘Wouldn’t that be fun to do sketches?’ So, when I got my show I wanted to do something like that. The sisters, meanwhile, think it is a brilliant idea to have a last blowout party at their parents’ house with their 40-something high school friends and “frenemies” before the new buyers, the Geernts (an amusing Santino Fontana and Britt Lower), move in. But here, the guests are a bit worse for the wear of their 40-or-so years, all chino pants and Talbot cardigan sets, unsure of how to let loose like they used to. Director Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect”) lets his leads do all the work, but doesn’t build up anything around them. “Sisters” should be a smart romp, but it’s a busted party. Cue several former “SNL” cast members, including a funny Rachel Dratch, and every cliche from the “Hangover” movies you can think of, including, of course, the fat guy (Bobby Moynihan) who ingests some drug that makes him take off his clothes and paint obscene pictures on the walls of the house with his naughty bits.
As a younger character (the hilarious Greta Lee) puts it as she looks out over the middle-aged carnage of crying, wine-drunk women, and slurring, pantless men: “Wow, people are really working their stuff out at this thing.” Suburban life has taken its basic toll. Along the way it has some genuinely funny moments, others that are crude, juvenile or repetitive, and attempts to wring laughs out of a 67-year-old briefly using the f-word the way other comedies turn tykes or grannies into potty mouths. There are some funny lines peppered throughout, and Poehler and Fey are entertaining when they’re riffing together (though many of the best moments appear in the trailer). There are so many combined years of sketch-comedy experience in the cast credits that the film’s timing is tight, the jokes continuous and the few flubs forgivable. There are handful of solid guests like Maya Rudolph (as Kate’s nemesis), John Cena (as a drug dealer, making his second fine comedy cameo of the year following ”Trainwreck”) and John Leguizamo (as a sleazy alcoholic).
There are plenty of great comedic actors throughout, including Bobby Moynihan as a profoundly uncool friend who spirals into a hilariously manic drug haze. Fortunately, Sisters doesn’t collapse into total absurdity in the same way that many house-party movies do – the film is slapstick and at moments teeters on the edge of too much, but it quickly snaps back before losing its audience. There’s no end to his talent so I was thrilled I was booked on “The Colbert Show” and was hoping I would get to meet him, and I was surprised when he came out and recited that poem.
Mature moviegoers may also appreciate the notion of whether someone who fell into a certain pattern in high school can break away from that, and just what the concept of home really means. And thanks to its love of a good time and the comedians who light it up, this film will join the hallowed ranks of Baby Mama, Bridesmaids, Spy and Trainwreck – that is, as a beloved comedy about brassy broads just werking. Gloria said ‘Well, I’m not going to get him out of here because he loves to sing.’ Gloria called me the next day and said what a wonderful time they had.
The nurse said, ‘She’s always so cheerful and smiling, and I asked her how can she be smiling?’ Carrie told the nurse ‘I’m going to decide to love my life today.’ So I do that.
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