John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Sisters Review


Genre: Comedy

Director: Jason Moore

Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, John Leguizamo, Dianne Wiest, John Cena, James Brolin

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: December 18th, 2015

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are two undeniably talented comedic superstars. The duo graduated from Second City to become successful stars (and Weekend Update co-anchors) on Saturday Night Live. Each of them went on to star in beloved NBC sitcoms with Fey co-creating and starring in 30 Rock and Poehler taking on the lead role in Parks and Recreation. After performing in Second City, and working on Saturday Night Live, diagnosis appearing in countless projects (Baby Mama and Mean Girls, to name a few) and then co-hosting the Golden Globes together, it seemed like the duo’s great chemistry could help overcome any project’s shortcomings.

That sadly isn’t the case in the new comedy Sisters.

Fey and Poehler star in the film as siblings, Kate and Maura Ellis. Kate is immature, bratty and reckless. Her free-spirited lifestyle has alienated her daughter (Madison Davenport) and irritated her parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest). When those parents decide to sell their home, they leave it to Maura — the more mature and straight-laced sister — to break the news to Kate. The sisters opt to visit their parents together, only to discover that the sale is imminent.

To mourn the loss of their childhood home while celebrating the good times they had there, the siblings decide to host one last major party at their parents’ house.

The concept sounds like comedic gold for two strong comediennes who naturally spark off one another. The problem, though, is that their chemistry seems like it’s meant to replace — rather than supplement — the script’s humor.

The screenplay by Paula Pell (a former head writer on Saturday Night Live) is packed with little sketches that never seem to create laughs.

One such scene features Fey and Poehler trying on different party outfits together. The two try their best to wring a laugh out of the situation but there’s no punchline there (save for a store employee who doesn’t seem to care about the women’s fashion choices). The scene would’ve been funnier if Fey and Poehler had simply stood there and done impressions. As it is, the sequence lacks the bite and the one-liners that could’ve made it worthwhile.

There are so many unfortunate scenes like that in here that lack a punchline or any comedic aspirations. During the party scenes themselves — the party takes up much of the film’s run time — supporting characters are introduced for some comedic value but the laughs never arise.

Former SNL cast members pop up in scene after scene playing former classmates of the Ellis sisters, only to endure unfunny set-ups and lame situations. Bobby Moynihan appears as a goofball who doesn’t know that he isn’t funny. Rachel Dratch appears as a lonely woman whose life hasn’t turned out the way she wanted (Debbie Downer, anyone?). Even Maya Rudolph comes in as a snotty classmate who never liked Kate. These performers have done much better work elsewhere (on Saturday Night Live, for instance) and it’s hard to watch them try to bring laughs to a film that doesn’t deserve many of them.

Admittedly, there were two sequences here that really worked for me. In one, Maura tries to learn the name of her pedicurist and in another, Maura’s attempts at romance with a neighbor (Ike Barinholtz) fall apart in the midst of the party.

Both sequences would’ve worked as skits during a show but they both stand out as hilarious bits in a film that is mired down in rote and lifeless humor being delivered by performers who deserve so much more.

Review by: John Hanlon