Directed by Jason Moore.
Starring Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, James Brolin, Dianne Weist, John Cena, John Leguizamo, Bobby Moynihan.
Sisters Kate (Fey) and Maura (Poehler) Ellis return to their parental home in Orlando, FL to pack up their bedrooms as their parents sell the house, and decide to throw the last ever ‘Ellis Island’ party for their high school friends. With Kate taking on the ‘party mom’ role for the first time, and Maura finally deciding to let loose… what could go wrong?
The combination of Fey and Poehler spells out comedic gold. For fans of SNL, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation, this is obvious. They’re comedy royalty. Whether they convince us as sisters is kind of besides the point; the very fact they’re involved already ramps up expectations considerably.
Having heard mixed things about this film, I was a little apprehensive about watching it at first. I intentionally missed it at the cinemas. The glossy marketing campaign did little to show us what this film was about, or rather how funny it would be, and the aforementioned high expectations left quite a few critics and viewers a bit cold. Yet sitting down to watch it was the best thing I could do with my evening. It’s raucous, it’s relentless, it’s irreverent, and it’s damn hilarious. Fey and Poehler are having a blast and the fun is contagious. Its humour has that go-go-go feeling about it, which is the kind of comedy I enjoy the most, and it’s very obviously an improv-a-thon built on an already funny base.
Kate is the irresponsible older sister: between homes, between jobs, in her thirties with a teenage daughter who’s grown tired of having to babysit her mom. At school Kate was the party girl, the popular one, the queen bee. Maura, on the other hand, is the serious and responsible younger sister. She’s a nurse who volunteers for the homeless on her days off. Her hobbies include cheese-making and crafting cards and posters with inspirational quotes. She’s… Leslie Knope, basically. When Maura finds out their parents are selling their childhood home, the two make their way back to sort out their belongings and say goodbye to who they were – with the absolute biggest bash they’ve ever thrown. They invite all the people from high school they used to like, but inevitably a couple of undesirables make an appearance, and the party goes south in the most spectacular ways possible.
Also Maura finds a boyfriend, but that’s only a subplot and it doesn’t rank too high on the list of what makes this movie fun.
It’s great to see a comedy fronted by 30-something ladies, written by a 50-something lady, that on the one hand isn’t afraid to get down and dirty and even downright gross, but on the other doesn’t rely exclusively on slapstick and body humour (like Tammy or Identity Thief or basically anything with Melissa McCarthy in it). Sisters touches upon a lot of prescient questions that burn on in the minds of 30-and-40-somethings in the western world. How does our identity change as we grow older? Do we lose the potential to have fun, or to achieve the things we dreamed of when we were younger? What does “adulthood” mean, really, and is there an invisible line we cross at some point? By watching Kate and Maura essentially swap roles, our own expectations are challenged.
Appearances by Hamilton alum Brian D’Arcy-James and star Renée-Elise Goldsbery are among the highlights of the supporting cast, and pro-wrestler John Cena absolutely kills it as unsmiling softie drug dealer/Fleshlight inventor/TSA agent Pazuzu. (Pazuzu. What a name.) Of course no Fey/Poehler film would be complete without the usual SNL suspects, Maya Rudolph and Bobby Moynihan, playing undesirables Brinda and Alex respectively, who riff off the rapport they’ve built through the years of doing comedy together. Unlike some SNL skits, Sisters never feels long or overdrawn, even if you (like me) decide to watch the extended version of the film offered on the DVD.
Aside from offering a choice between theatrical and extended versions of the film, with extra deleted scenes and improvisations on top of that, the DVD extras boast a sizable selection of making-of featurettes, the chronicles of Kate and John Cena’s Pazuzu, a video of cast members reading the teenage diary of screenwriter Paula Pell, a VFX breakdown of the one spectacular shot in the film in which an outdoor pool sinks into the ground, and more.
Amy Poehler apologises twice during the making-of featurettes to “those who fell asleep with the DVD still on”. No apologies necessary, Amy. I watched those featurettes because I wanted to.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★