Review: Amy Poehler and Tina Fey Come Home in ‘Sisters’

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Fey and Poehler party down in ‘Sisters’.

Whether they’ve been behind the news desk on television’s Saturday Night Live, hosting the Golden Globes award show, or co-starring in a hit movie (2008’s Baby Mama), these comedy sisters could do no wrong.The late critic Gene Siskel had a frequent saying when evaluating a movie with an appealing cast: “Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?” In the case of “Sisters,” the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler sibling comedy, the question is heightened: Who among us wouldn’t happily listen in on these two having lunch?In the new comedy “Sisters,” out Friday from Universal, Tina Fey plays against type, as a cosmetologist whose sister ( Amy Poehler) is far more responsible than she is.

In “Sisters,” Tina Fey and Amy Poehler attempt to bring the most teenage of comedy genres __ that of keg stands and drunken hook-ups __ into middle age.“My older one is really sweet and really easy going and my little one is rough,” Fey told Ellen DeGeneres of her daughters, Alice, 10, and Penelope, 4, on Wednesday. In it, they more or less reverse the casting dynamic of Baby Mama, their last movie project together, by having Fey play Kate Ellis, the wild older sister who is dissatisfied with her personal and professional life, with Poehler as Maura Ellis, the more grounded younger sister, recently divorced but reliably responsible and generous, who lends her older sister money.

Not to mention their stellar individual achievements, most notably Fey’s “30 Rock” and Poehler’s “Parks and Recreation.” Year after year, as solo talents and a team, they’ve been knocking it out of the park. A sloppy, raunchy, underwritten, poorly assembled mishmash of sentiment and gross-out gags strung along an insultingly thin premise, the comedy still has a few moments that can make you laugh hard enough to shoot soda out your nose.

They play sibs who find out that their parents, played by Dianne Wiest and James Brolin (who also play spouses on the current TV sitcom, Life in Pieces), are selling their childhood home in the Orlando, Florida suburbs. Those moments are largely improvisational, and they reflect not only the stars’ roots in “Saturday Night Live” sketch comedy and half-hour TV shows but the comfort zone of screenwriter Paula Pell — a 20-year “SNL” veteran — and most of the supporting cast. So it’s with no small reluctance I report “Sisters” is a depressing, overlong, repetitive slapstick disaster in which two of the most appealing stars around wallow in the muck AND the mire, figuratively and literally. Coal, you got nothing.’ ” “I remember it being a very clarifying experience when I was a kid,” she shared, adding, “Going to sit on Santa’s lap, it was just a trailer that was parked in the J.C. While the tremendous wit and chemistry of Fey and Poehler is unquestionable, the big-screen meeting of the former “Weekend Update” hosts feels overwhelming mismatched.

If your idea of cutting-edge humor is a drugged-out, fortysomething class clown doing artwork with his genitals; a pratfall that results in a musical ballerina figurine jammed up a man’s rear end; tired stereotypes about lesbians and Korean manicurists; numerous characters making drunken fools of themselves and, yes, sisters wrestling in mud, by all means step right up and purchase a ticket. By the third act, the already-overfamiliar, party-getting-out-of-hand thrust completely wears out its welcome: by then, the only audience members who still care are those who live for scenes of wanton, arbitrary material destruction – of ceilings, floors, beds, rugs, furniture, windows, doors, roof, lawn, swimming pool, you name it — with no buildup and no internal logic.

Caught up in nostalgia, they decide to throw one last party, at which things go predictably awry and after which their family issues become smoothly sorted out, in the way of all glossy comedies. One of his first jobs was as the resident director of “Les Misérables,” which involved rehearsing understudies and supervising the North American companies. “I was working on a show that I knew worked, so it was like boot camp,” recalled Mr. Maura is divorced and closer to her rescue dogs than to other humans, and Kate is living on a friend’s couch, a jobless embarrassment to her levelheaded teen daughter (Madison Davenport). With mom and dad already in a condo, Kate and Maura decide to have one last shindig before the house passes to its smarmy new owners, so they load up on the booze and send out invitations to all their old high school friends on Facebook.

That includes John Leguizamo, Kate McKinnon, Rachel Dratch, Bobby Moynihan, Maya Rudolph, Samantha Bee, John Cena, Greta Lee, Madison Davenport, Jon Glaser, and Ike Barinholtz. The party starts to drag after a while, but the company never gets old. ‘Sisters,’ with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, James Brolin, John Cena, John Leguizamo, Dianne Wiest. In the late going, the script takes a halfhearted stab at poignancy, but it’s far too little and far too much at the same time, and certainly far too late.

Moore also got his first job working in television, directing a few episodes of “Dawson’s Creek,” thanks to his Northwestern classmate Greg Berlanti. With a setup this flimsy to begin with – one that would sit much more comfortably and appropriately in a movie aimed at and involving teens rather than thirtysomethings, such as House Party or Project X or Can’t Hardly Wait — Sisters sets off with nowhere to go but up. John Leguizamo is cast as a sort of walking STD, while muscleman John Cena, so sweetly abused in last summer’s “Trainwreck,” turns out to be this movie’s comic secret weapon as a deadpan drug dealer named Pazuzu. Ike Barinholtz lends his easy charm to the part of James, a nice guy from down the street who becomes a romantic interest for Maura. (The scene in which Maura and Kate meet James as he’s landscaping in his front yard and they flirt with him is so tone-dead, and the sisters come off as so obnoxious, it’s a wonder this guy shows up for their party.) Fueled by drugs and booze, dozens of fortysomethings raise the roof and then tear the roof down.

Commercially speaking, with Sisters presenting itself as counterprogramming on Star Wars: The Force Awakens weekend, the film should be in fine shape. In scene after scene after scene after — well, you get the idea, these middle-aged maniacs abuse the house and the surrounding grounds in mind-numbingly uncreative fashion.

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). The movie does score a few sharp points about how adulthood can dull the edges of even the most relentless teenage party rat, and it staves off the inevitable sisterly argument and sentimental wrap-up as long as possible. Poehler and Fey seem to be having fun sexing it up a bit, wearing provocative clothing and performing dance numbers and flaunting their attractiveness more than is their usual practice. Moore, “everything changed.” Soon came “Pitch Perfect,” a surprise hit that has spawned two sequels. “When I read it, I knew it was funny for 14-year-old girls and 40-year-old gay men, which is basically what I make all of my projects for,” said Mr. Mostly, it’s content to let the stars cuss up a storm and talk in cringe-y “ghetto” slang in a lame attempt to appeal to “the kids” — who will probably go nowhere near this movie except in a pirated version on their laptops.

There is that one scene, though, in which Barinholtz gets a music box playing “Fur Elise” stuck in a most embarrassing place, a bit so filthy and so funny that even Beethoven would have to laugh. Ultimately, the film’s biggest problem might be the one shared by just about all bad party flicks that traffic in mayhem: that the audience is painfully aware that they are watching performers who are clearly having a much better time than they are. With a little more effort, the rest of “Sisters” might meet that high/low bar and live up to the expectations and affection we have for the two comic actresses. Moore pursued “Sisters,” a screenplay written by the veteran comedy writer Paula Pell. “It had a left-of-center highbrow/lowbrow feel but a lot of heart,” explained Mr.

Moore said he liked throwing parties at his Chelsea apartment in part because “then I don’t have to leave.” As the technician covered his feet with a hot towel, he offered up some of his party tips. “First, I make sure it’s really crowded,” Mr.

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