Wednesday 21 February 2018

Sisters review: 'Despite its ridiculous running length and paper-thin premise, it somehow stays on track'

Sisters - Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
Sisters - Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

Chris Wasser

Tina and Amy. Amy and Tina. We still don’t know whose name is supposed to come first, but rest assured, America’s leading ladies of comedy — last seen poking fun at a room of well-dressed Hollywood types at January’s Golden Globe Awards (Fey and Poehler’s third consecutive time hosting the ceremony) — are very, very good together. They’re best buds, Tina and Amy. Comedians, actors, writers — you name it, they’ve done it.


Surprisingly, 2008’s Baby Mama was the last time the duo shared a film poster, so yeah, there’s a wee bit of hype surrounding Sisters, a decent, if somewhat unoriginal, effort in which film audiences get a chance to see how things might have played out had Tina and Amy (we do hope you’re not tired of those names yet) grown up in the same house. What’s the movie about? Ah, here now… okay, we’ll give you a minute.

Sure enough, Tina and Amy play a pair of 40-something siblings who aren’t best pleased to hear that mammy and daddy are selling their childhood home. One of ‘em, Maura (Amy Poehler) is a wee bit uptight. A divorced nurse who carries around inspirational quote cards, Maura is the complete opposite of her sister, Kate (Tina Fey).

Single mom Kate’s all over the place, in fact. Broke, unemployed, soon-to-be homeless — good grief, you know things are bad when your own teenage daughter advises you to grow up.

Back at the family homestead to clear out their rooms, reread their diaries and sort out their lives, it’s decided that the sensible thing to do on their last weekend in the gaff (aside from tearing down the Bono poster on the wall, obviously) is to throw a party.

Actually, Maura is completely against the idea, and the parents (all shacked up in the coolest old folks home on the planet) would have a fit if they knew what Kate had planned, but sure listen, we’ve got a plot to move forward with.

It’s at this point of the film that Sisters inevitably descends down the ‘craziest night of our lives/one last blowout’ route, of which there are five important rules to follow.

One: the party has to start off badly before it can become truly epic (and it does). Two: we need plenty of red beer cups (there are loads). Three: the random drug dealer needs to be cool (the increasingly funny John Cena has it covered). Four: nobody is allowed  to pass out or worry about the shopping bill (jeez, and the Americans think we have a drinking problem). Five: the house needs to get trashed.

Oh yes, things get messy. Kate agrees to stay off the sauce (it’s a role-reversal movie, too) and Maura gets hot, awkward and heavy with the handyman across the road (Ike Barinholtz). You know how these things go — throw a party, wreck the place, learn a few life lessons, etc.

The thing is, despite its ridiculous running length (two-hour comedies are all the rage now, apparently) and paper-thin premise, Sisters — though wobbly on occasion — somehow stays on track. That has a lot to do with Fey and Poehler exhibiting the kind of charisma and chemistry that money can’t buy.

Even at their most vulgar, they’re still wonderfully entertaining, and always likeable. Fey has a blast with Kate’s unruliness, and for once, Poehler (socially inept and hilarious) actually triumphs over her sparring partner. The joke is on growing old and losing touch, and at least some of the punchlines hit the back of the net (the ladies’ shopping trip is brilliant). True, there’s a bit too much improv involved, and you can see the ending a mile off, but hey, that party sure does look deadly, and Fey and Poehler are in good company, with plenty of familiar names pulling funny faces and temper tantrums.

John Leguizamo (an old schoolmate) piles on the sleaze, Maya Rudolph (the bitch next door) has a complete breakdown, and even James Brolin’s comical turn as the sisters’ old man is on target. Did we mention the fact that John Cena (big, scary, tattooed) is a hoot? We did? Sorry, but it’s true — the WWE giant might yet have a cracking film career ahead of him.

Granted, it isn’t nearly as fresh or as sharp as it thinks it is, but as formulaic party movies go, Sisters isn’t short on chuckles. All hail Tina and Amy. Or Amy and Tina.


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