The effortless chemistry of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler worked like a charm on Weekend Update but generated a disappointment in their first feature, 2008’s Baby Mama. Sisters is a generally more satisfying experience that finds its stars (specifically Fey) playing against type. The pic rarely wants to be anything more than a raunchy party comedy and it works well enough on that level, even while we know these players are capable of much more.
Sisters casts Poehler as Maura, a nurse who’s always trying to help and inspire people, often to a “bit too much” degree. Fey is Kate, an irresponsible stylist whose own teen daughter doesn’t wish to be around her very often. When the siblings parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) decide to sell the Orlando home where the girls grew up, they don’t take it so well. Their frustration eventually results in one last blowout party like they had in high school. This time though, Maura decides to let her freak flag fly while Kate is dubiously tasked with being the responsible one.
The screenplay by SNL writer Paula Pell occasionally gets emotional with messages about family and Fey and Poehler help greatly in selling it. As mentioned, however, this is content to be a fun R rated laugher complete with some sex, drugs supplied by John Cena, and early 90s hip hop like “Informer” by Canadian rapper Snow. There’s an obligatory romantic subplot for Maura with handyman James (Ike Barinholtz) that feels slightly forced but does produce a memorable moment with a music box. The script also finds some amusing moments for its stellar supporting cast, including Maya Rudolph as Kate’s old high school nemesis, Rachel Dratch as an eccentric old classmate, and Bobby Moynihan as that old friend constantly telling lame jokes. And a shout out to Greta Lee as nail salon worker Hae Won, who shines in her small role and has one of the pic’s funniest scenes with Poehler. On the other hand, John Leguizamo’s loser ex classmate role may have been the victim of the cutting room floor as he has little to do. And while Fey is always stellar, I’ll admit that I never fully bought her in this role.
We have seen both lead actresses do seriously terrific stuff on TV, whether on SNL or their shows “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation”. Sisters doesn’t match those achievements but provides two hours worthy of their talents and provides a party worth checking out.
*** (out of four)