Starring-Tina Fey, Amy Poehler
Scott’s Review #458
Reviewed July 31, 2016
Slapstick comedy is admittedly not my genre of choice, though I will watch some for light entertainment purposes or to see just how bad (or good) current offerings are. Nonetheless, I have tried to put myself in a mindset of having low expectations for these types of films that are by and large fluff and plot driven. In the case of Sisters, the film is pretty much as one would expect: vulgar, crass, and raunchy. Yet, due to the chemistry between the leads (Amy Poehler and Tina Fey) and a few light, heartfelt romantic moments, there is something that works about this film- it is not as mean as one might think. This is not to say that Sisters is a great film- hardly- but not as bad as I feared.
Poehler and Fey play Maura and Kate Ellis, respectively, two late thirties sisters, living in other areas of the country, who return home to Orlando, Florida, when their parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) sell their childhood home. Maura and Kate have been tasked with cleaning out their bedrooms in time for the sale. The sisters come up with an idea to throw one final bash and invite their high school classmates, who all conveniently still live in the same town. Obviously, events go awry and the party gets way out of hand. Mixed in with the main plot are sub-plots consisting of a romantic interest for Maura, and a rival for Kate, played by Maya Rudolph.
The best part of the film is the chemistry between Poehler and Fey. They simply “have it” whether it is a Saturday Night Live sketch, hosting the Golden Globe awards, or starring in Sisters. The banter and the jokes work well because the two comics work well together and it shows on-screen. They are believable as sisters despite looking nothing alike.
Otherwise, Sisters is a traditional vulgar comedy. One irksome recent trend in this style of film (now more female driven than in years past) is the leading ladies being class-less and this must be an attempt at female empowerment or the assumption that since adult comedies were once a man’s world, female characters should be written like men. Do we really need Kate and Maura swearing like sailors, making poop jokes, and being so raunchy? Behaving like ladies would now be the exception not the norm (Bridesmaids set this precedent).
Not surprisingly, the supporting characters are all caricatures as is typically the case in films of this genre. The parents are a bit clueless, have kinky sex much to the girls chagrin, Brinda, bitchy, judgmental, yet insecure, the Korean (big stereotype) nail technician who cannot properly pronounce English words, the new owners of the house are snobbish, uptight, and clueless, and finally, James, the guy next door, who is Mr. Fix-it and the straight man in the high-jinks. He is sugar sweet and the male hero.
The romantic scenes between Maura and James are rather sweet and sentimental, nicely balancing the vulgarity and raunchiness that the rest of the film encompasses. They are a nice couple and have a rich rooting value.
Most of the action takes place at Kate and Maura’s childhood home where posters of such 1980’s films as E.T. and Out of Africa, as well as a poster of heartthrob Tom Cruise hang on the walls. This and many other references that Generation X’ers will take delight from in this film are pointed out, so that is a treat and a positive of the film.
As the party gets off to a slow start and the thirty and forty something’s appear dull and either talking about their kids or their various maladies, and suddenly, after being fed drugs, are back to their college party days, is both dumb and cute at the same time.
Sisters (hopefully) knows what it is. It is a late Saturday night, raunchy comedy affair, meant as fluff and as escapist fun. It is not a masterpiece nor does it intend to be one. Rather, a full length SNL sketch including many alumni. It is harmless fun.