“Sisters” movie review

By Jeff Boudreaux20151211110937!Sisters_movie_poster

Frequent collaborators Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (“Baby Mama,” “Saturday Night Live”) hit the laughter goldmine with this fresh and funny take on house parties and the ever-evolving, yet unique relationship of sisters. At the very least, the two stars’ performances in “Sisters” proves that the classic motion picture unit known as the female “comedy team” did not die back in the 1930’s with Patsy Kelly and Thelma Todd – but was merely dormant for 80 years, as the impeccable timing of these two comediennes lift this film above your standard comic fare.

Kate Ellis (Tina Fey) is a down-on-her-luck single mother, living and working a hair salon out of an acquaintance’s (?) apartment. Her teenage daughter Haley (Madison Davenport of “Noah”) recently left to live with a friend because of the dire circumstances, but manages to check in on her mother from time to time. Kate’s sister Maura (Amy Poehler) is doing much better for herself considering, working as a nurse in hospice and consistently playing the veritable good Samaritan, with a soft spot for the homeless (or rather construction workers on break that she mistakes for vagrants)! The two sisters soon find out that their childhood home has been sold by their parents Bucky and Deana (screen veterans James Brolin and Dianne Wiest), who have just retired to a Villages-type community and are calling upon Kate and Maura to clean out their bedroom (unchanged from the late 1980’s) before the prissy new owners can take residence.

While deep in the throes of reminiscent spring cleaning, the girls decide they must throw one last “Ellis Island” house party, just like the good old days. They invite the sweaty, home-renovating neighbor/eligible bachelor James (Ike Barinholtz), whom Maura has quite the crush on, and “nearly” all of their friends, including the oversexed local liquor-store owner Dave (John Leguizamo), the annoyingly unfunny-hence-ridiculously hilarious Alex (Bobby Moynihan of ‘SNL’), and the pitifully unconfident Kelly (Rachel Dratch) who can’t help but bawl at her own reflection in the mirror! As you may have guessed, this “party” starts out about as exciting as your average wake. Mercifully, they are suddenly converged upon by the local lesbians who just happen to be awesome D.J.’s! The party really starts when the sisters’ recently-befriended pedicurist Hae-Won (Greta Lee) and her band of Oriental party girls arrive – in addition to Dave’s drug dealer Pazuzu (Yes, he’s named after the demon in “The Exorcist,” carries everything from Dilaudid to Flintstones Gummies, and is played by none other than WWE Superstar John Cena). With the revelers poised to bring the house down, the girls must then deal with an incessant unwanted guest, a blossoming attraction between Maura and James, the pesky new owners, a returning Haley, and yes, their parents!

One thing that is for certain here, the proceedings in this film prove that drunk and horny teenagers do not have a monopoly on fun and that Gen Xer’s can throw a party with the best of them. And even though this film is peppered with so many colorful characters, it’s only lagniappe as the two stars of this film rightfully carry it from beginning to end. As I alluded to before, not only is the comic timing between Fey and Poehler spot-on, their chemistry onscreen is immeasurable. When these two actresses get together, hilarity abounds, plain and simple. As expected, lots of familiar comic faces are represented here including fellow ‘SNL’-alumni Chris Parnell as a salon customer deeply worried about his eyebrows and Maya Rudolph as Brinda, the hated ex-friend who keeps trying to crash the sisters’ party, after deciding that her weekly “Game of Thrones” viewing party (i.e. 3 people) pales in comparison!

One-liners and sight gags come fast and furious, so much in fact that repeated viewings may be necessary as the audience was laughing so heartily that I’m sure everyone in the theater missed at least a couple of jokes. Ah, the detrimental effects of good comedic performances – we should always be so lucky! Highlights include a riotous scene at the local salon between Maura and Hae-Won, concerning the pronunciation of the latter’s name and the after-effects of party guest Alex’s snorting of an entire bag of coke in a feeble attempt at “Scarface” charades! If I have any criticism for the film (and believe me it’s hard because it is so consistently funny), I guess I would have to point out that James Brolin is somewhat over-the-top as their dad, with his hammy albeit-good natured attempt at overacting, but I doubt viewers will mind as you can tell he was having one heck of a good time filming his scenes.

“Sisters” was directed by Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect”), who certainly has a knack for films that highlight the comedic talents of women. This film is deliberately paced so that the viewer doesn’t have the chance to languish off into the far corners of their mind, there’s simply too many good jokes to keep us entertained. And while I will argue that this screenplay written by Paula Pell of ‘SNL’ fame (I know what you’re thinking, but surprisingly Lorne Michaels had nothing to do with this film) holds a special attraction for members of Generation X, the comedy is too refined to be strictly focused upon one sector of the audience and will entertain anyone with a sense of humor, regardless of age.

*** (three out of four stars)


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