Film Review: Sisters

Vulgar, occasionally funny cinematic splatter, with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler doing broad, tacky strokes as two early 40-something sisters who are back in their hometown raising hell, tries to out-gross the gross-out male comedies of its ilk.
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Silly minus witty can be hard to take, as can any comedy with characters that are the “entertainment” equivalent of stick figures. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, as reunited sisters who throw a rave party at their parents just-sold home, may ramp things up a bit, but their characters’ unmitigated allegiance to nonstop idiocy and potty-mouth language is noteworthy for too often missing the laugh bull’s-eye.

Of course, the filmmakers are aiming for a specific audience—easy-to-please filmgoers, Fey and Poehler fans and older millennials, younger Gen X-ers and those hungering for “SNL” at its wilder moments. But Sisters, the debut feature script for longtime “SNL” and “30 Rock” writer Paula Pell, is no Star Wars box-office threat.

The film’s arc is weak, with no momentum or surprise (except when it strains to go beyond outrageous). An example of the latter is poor Ike Barinholtz as Poehler’s romantic interest getting a tinkling Beethoven music box accidentally stuck up his ass during a bedroom rendezvous.

The story, such as it is, is party-ready like a bathtub of cold beer and spiked punch bowl. It asks a simple question: What happens when a duo of once party-mad, still-loser sisters, now years older and reuniting in their Orlando, Florida home town (Long Island serving as a nice stand-in), throw a pop-up rave party for old friends and a few new acquaintances and totally wreck what was a nice, newly sold family house?

Maura Ellis (Poehler), newly divorced and the more caring one of the pair, tends to the human and animal needy as a nurse and volunteer. Slightly older sis Kay (Fey), a hothead, is the bigger mess: She just lost her beautician job and got thrown out of her apartment, and teen daughter Haley (Madison Davenport) has been M.I.A. for the summer. A Skype call with their parents (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) brings the awful news that Mom and Dad—without consulting the sisters—have sold their childhood home.

The unhappy sisters rush to Orlando and reunite in their old bedrooms, where they thumb through their high-school diaries and become nostalgic for the good old times when they threw wild “Ellis Island” parties. Why not throw another one in the now-vacant family home?

Thus, the two convene old friends and some new ones. Among the latter are hunky James (Barinholtz), a sweet construction worker the sisters meet while tooling around in their car. He becomes Maura’s romantic target and some action ensues. Also new to their scene is strong, silent, huge and highly tattooed Pazuzu (former wrestler John Cena, who so impressed in Trainwreck), a walking drug store who supplies the party’s drugs after things begin way too quietly.

Notable faces from the sisters’ teen years are Brinda (Maya Rudolph), a bitter bitch of a real estate broker and Kay’s archenemy; Alex (Bobby Moynihan), a fat, disheveled party wrecker full of gross jokes and antics; and sourpuss Kelly (Rachel Dratch), a melancholy soul imbibing too much alcohol and self-pity. (All three, like Fey and Poehler, are “Saturday Night Live” vets.)

As the drinking and partying escalate, the house-wrecking grows more and more extreme. Dry walls and ceilings are smashed and a sinkhole is provoked. There’s plenty of vomiting, naughty sexual activity, bad behavior and nasty verbiage.

Of note is that Pell’s script is semi-autobiographical and Fey and Poehler, whose foul-mouthed sisters here make Howard Stern sound like an Oxford don, previously co-starred in Baby Mama and, more successfully, as serial Golden Globe hostesses. It’s obvious the two comedy stars, pals in real life, and others are having a helluva time; would that more viewers could join in.

Click here for cast and crew information.