As star vehicles go, this one's a jalopy.
Everyone’s got at least a few friends who aren’t the least bit excited by the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens this weekend. If they’re going to see a movie this weekend, it’ll probably be Sisters, and they’ll probably be left underwhelmed and bored to tears as they try to ignore the dispiriting sounds of laughter, cheers, and lightsabers clashing in the theater next door.
This endlessly dull house-party comedy stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as Kate and Maura (get it?), respectively, siblings who return to their childhood home when they’re informed that their parents have sold it to a snooty young couple. As a loving sendoff for the house, they throw a gigantic party, inviting all of their high school friends and dancing their adult cares away to cheesy ’80s and ’90s radio jams. Predictably, the party gets out of hand, laying bare the sisters’ deepest insecurities and frustrations with each other. Laughs, laughs, laughs, dramatic climax, sweet reconciliation, laughs. We’re all familiar with this studio-comedy formula by now, and I for one am beyond sick of it.
Poehler and Fey have a schtick, and it’s a good one. They’ve set several live television shows on fire together over the years. They’re a phenomenal package. It’s only logical that you’d give them a movie platform to do what they do best, but as a star vehicle, Sisters is a jalopy. The story’s barely there (it’s about their characters learning to let go of their childish ways or something), so all the pressure’s on the dynamic duo to be funny all the time and keep things entertaining. There are a handful of solid laughs here and there, but in a movie with literally hundreds of one-liners and slapstick gags being thrown at us in rapid succession, a handful ain’t gonna cut it.
The problem is that there’s no discipline to the storytelling, so the movie plays out like an improv fest where the jokes feel too standalone and random to support the story or the characters. Maura’s a divorced nurse who’s always trying to fix everyone else’s problems and Kate is a mom who needs to grow up herself if she ever expects her teenage daughter (Madison Davenport) to respect her. Clichéd as they are, these characters could have worked, but once the actors start flying off the cuff and doing their typical “crazy girl” thing, the notion of Maura and Kate quickly melts away and we’re left with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey and their run-of-the-mill Saturday Night Live yucks. Things get so scattered and feel so unscripted that it almost feels irrelevant to mention the movie’s director, Jason Moore—this is the Amy and Tina show, through and through.
Speaking of SNL, the only highlight of the film is current cast member Bobby Moynihan, who plays a wannabe life-of-the-party guy who incessantly spouts bad jokes and goes ape-shit when he accidentally snorts a pile of cocaine. Perhaps the movie’s biggest surprise is that Mya Rudolph, who’s almost always excellent and hilarious, is woefully unremarkable in her role as party-pooping mean girl. Rachel Dratch is here too, doing a watered-down, unfunny version of Debbie Downer. I expect more out of all of these people, and the fact that the youngest, least experienced SNL player of the bunch is the only one to register real laughs is frankly unbelievable.
The real bummer here is that we’ve all seen Poehler and Fey be great elsewhere. Hell, even their previous movie team-up, 2008’s Baby Mama, was pretty fun. But Sisters just feels like they jumped in front of a camera without a plan and rehashed that terrible brand of humor where they rely on the shock value of four-letter words and general crudeness instead of crafting real, clever punch lines. I weep for those who forego The Force Awakens for this forgettable failure.