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SISTERS (USA 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Jason Moore
Golden Globe hostesses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have proven themselves apt at comedy whether on their own or as a team.
SISTERS, drawing largely from Saturday Night Live type comedy, is a mix bag of tricks, but thankful succeeds.
Fey and Poehler play sisters. Both are goofballs. When the film opens, each comedienne is given the opportunity to strut her worth. Poehler begins as Maura, a nurse earnestly providing aid outside a supermarket to a homeless man. Not only are her antics useless and embarrassing, but the homeless man turns out to be a construction worker. She is finally told to ‘f***-off” by the supermarket manager who she mistakes for a bag lady. This 5-minute action is actually the film’s funniest segment as nothing else beats it. So when the next segment shows Fey as her sister Kate, a jobless beautician fumbling a client at home while her daughter Haley (Madison Davenport) suddenly appears, it becomes immediately apparent that this mildly funny next 5 minutes are no match for Poehler’s. But when the two appear together, they rub off each other, so Poehler becomes less funny while Fey becomes more. The two also work hard to complement each other, whether in comedy or in dance as a later musical number shows.
The story concerns their parents Deanna (Dianne Wiest) and Bucky (James Brolin) selling their family house in Orlando. The sisters are called in to clean up their room. As it turns out, they decide to throw one last big party. Kate agrees to become the party’s house mother (which means no drinking) while Kate gets to catch up on her missed partying. Kate’s daughter turns up. Kate finds the daughter/mother relationship stretched and tested even more when she finds her sister has been harbouring the secret of looking after Haley.
Many comedies are spoilt by sentimentality or the drama of the underlying story. In SISTERS, director Moore and writer Paula Pell (a SNL veteran) do not, thankfully fall into this trap. They realize the comedic potential of the party. The party becomes the film’s main focus lasting half of the film’s running time. One high jinx follows another, and an impressive cast of goofy partygoers are assembled that create quite the few laugh-out loud segments. The supporting cast are surprisingly funny, matching and in a number of segments, getting even more laughs than Poehler and Fey. John Leguizamo’s sleazy ex-alcoholic Bobby Moynihan, Oscar Winner Wiest’s foul-mouthed angry mother and John Cena’s bulked tattooed drug dealer are all exceptionally funny. But top prize goes to Maya Rudolph (the bride in BRIDESMAIDS and the secretary with the helmet hairdo in INHERENT VICE) as the self-invited guest who decides to ruin the party. It is about time Rudolph gets a lead in her own movie.
There are a few incidents that make little sense, like a guest putting in the whole bottle of laundry detergent in the machine resulting in suds filling the house. This scene is reminiscent of Blake Edwards’ THE PARTY in which Peter Sellers finds his party filled with bubbles as well.
Ultimately, it is the hit-and-miss ratio that counts. SISTERS has a high one. SISTERS works, and proves that the ladies can come up with an equal if not better bad behaviour movie than their male counterparts. (Seth Rogen and gang in the recent THE NIGHT BEFORE.).
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