DVD Review - Sisters

This movie feels as if it were an excuse for Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to spend time on screen together and perhaps hang out in Florida for a couple of months. It almost sinks to the level of a Happy Madison production where the whole thing is just a glorified vacation for Adam Sandler and friends. This movie is practically there. It's barely purposeful. It's a party film with the thinnest of plots and the thinnest of characters, which would normally be fine, if the comedy were laugh-out-loud funny. Unfortunately, the humor is a bit restrained and a bit flat. It tries to have punch occasionally but never feels like it goes far enough.

Amy Poehler stars as Maura Ellis, a perky, upbeat, overly positive nurse in Atlanta who learns from her parents that her childhood home is being sold. She's upset at the prospect of having to clean out her old bedroom.

Tina Fey also stars as Kate Ellis, the older sister who works as a stylist. She's a single mom to a teenager named Haley who acts more like an adult than Kate. Kate has been fired from her job and she's getting kicked out of the place she's living.

Maura and Kate hop on a plane and go to Orlando to clean out their, shared bedroom before it becomes the property of someone else. They're reminded of epic parties that they used to throw. They're inspired to throw one last shindig in honor of their epic parties of yesteryear, inviting a lot of childhood friends.

The majority of the film from that point takes place all in one night as the two sisters host this party. A rivalry with a former friend named Brinda, played by Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live), and a potential romance with a new neighbor named James, played by Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project), form the basis of a lot of the action and the comedic set-pieces.

Of course, there are a lot of guest stars who push things along. James Brolin and Dianne Wiest play Maura and Kate's parents. The two seem to be playing the exact, same characters as Brolin and Wiest do in CBS' Life in Pieces. Various Saturday Night Live or SNL, cast members appear and do shticks they've normally done on SNL. John Leguizamo does a similar shtick he's done before in films. John Cena's physicality is again the source of his comedy.

However, Brinda and James occupy a significant amount of time. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Paula Pell, a writer on SNL, only uses these two characters in the service of jokes. Many of which don't fly too high or far. Brinda is too much of a cartoon villain and James is just an object of desire, although fairly normal. It's an imbalance of tone. The actors, Rudolph and Brinholtz are essentially in two, different movies here, two that don't quite mesh.

All of a sudden, Pell throws in a conflict that's supposed to put the two sisters at odds with one another. Except, it literally comes out of nowhere and feels so contrived and unnecessary. That conflict should have been introduced earlier and developed more. It would have helped to make the characters feel fully-fleshed out, rather than SNL sketches.

Further developing the dynamics between Brinda and James would have helped too. I never felt the rivalry between Brinda and Kate. I also never felt the romance between James and Maura. Those dynamics perhaps are not the overall point, but because they take up significant time, I should care more about them, but I didn't.

Directed by Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) who is also a Tony-nominee for Avenue Q, this movie hasn't the flair or the fun of the shows written by Fey and Poehler. It begs the possibility that maybe the two should always write their own material, unless it's something like Inside Out.

This film doesn't come close to other films involving sisterly relationships like Hannah and Her Sisters, which won Dianne Wiest her first Academy Award. It doesn't even come close to recent sisterly films like Trainwreck or Bridesmaids. It's certainly not as funny as any of those films. It's not even funnier than Frozen (2013).

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 58 mins.


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