Last updateThu, 18 Jan 2018 3am


Fey and Poehler Throw a Party in “Sisters”

Sisters 2016December’s R-rated comedy Sisters was essentially an extended Saturday Night Live skit, the kind that tries a little too hard but is charming enough to merit a re-watch. The film stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as the titular Ellis sisters who reunite for one last house party when their parents put their childhood home on the market. During a holiday movie season that was packed with heavy dramas and fantasy franchises, Sisters’ raunchy antics were a welcome change.

While they’ve built their respective careers on individual projects, Fey and Poehler are perhaps funniest as a duo, riffing off of one another in the way that only best friends can. They served a long tenure together at SNL where they famously manned the Weekend Update desk and performed various skits as Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton. More recently they hosted the Golden Globes for three years in a row, raising the bar for awards season emcee’s everywhere. Sisters marks their first film together since the 2008 comedy Baby Mama, in which Fey plays a successful businesswoman who enlists Poehler’s irresponsible character to be the surrogate for her child.

In Sisters, the duo plays opposite roles: this time Poehler stars as Maura, a by-the-book entrepreneur, while Fey plays Kate, an out-of-control single mom without a place to live. They embody these roles well, Fey in particular reaching a depth that she doesn’t always achieve. She’s thoroughly convincing as the more outrageous of the pair, often using expert delivery to make the best of a mediocre line. As the plot shifts to incorporate Kate’s struggle to find employment and provide for a daughter that has all but given up on her, Fey hits the emotional notes and helps to carry the story.

While Fey and Poehler carried the weight of the film, they brought plenty of famous friends along for assistance. Maya Rudolph stands out as Brinda, Kate’s nemesis from high school that wages war on the house party after not getting an invite. Current SNL stars Kate McKinnon and Bobby Moynihan also play party guests, along with Rachel Dratch and WWE legend-turned-comedy-star, John Cena. Every cameo added something to the film, and the SNL cast members played off of each other particularly well. Many reviewers credited Moynihan with a show-stealing performance, but I personally found his role to be a bit over the top. Rudolph was much better, characterizing Brinda with a layer of rage behind her fake smile and exaggerated word enunciation.

Sisters also features Ike Barinholtz as James, a neighboring handyman and love interest of Maura, who spends a good portion of the film trying and hilariously failing to flirt. Barinholtz, previously cast as side characters in shows like The Mindy Project, does well here as a leading man. Still, their romance never quite surpasses cliche, and the rom-com aspect of the film isn’t nearly as interesting as the dynamic between the two sisters.

Paula Pell’s script succeeds in highlighting Maura and Kate’s relationship, specifically the roles that they played in each other’s lives as children and continue to embody as adults, either for better or for worse. There’s depth in the family dynamic and it’s easy to get attached to the characters. Still, I wish Pell had occasionally chosen sophisticated over raunchy—some of the punch lines feel lazy and overused, and don’t necessarily live up to the standards associated with Fey and Poehler. As a result, the performances in Sisters often overshadow the script itself.

In the end, Sisters doesn’t belong on the top of Fey and Poehler’s respective resumes, but it was a hilarious, feel-good film that was perfect for the holiday season. It’s packed with cameos and the party takes several unexpected turns. The humor isn’t groundbreaking but it is the kind that you can watch again and again, and when it’s over, you’ll be eagerly awaiting your invitation to the next Ellis Island party.

IMAGE TAKEN from bostonherald.com

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