Going up against “Star Wars” is a monumental task but what allows a great functionality within “Sisters” at times is that it knows what it is. Like a more mature version of “Superbad”, it is ultimately about two best friends in real life [Tina Fey & Amy Poehler] (playing sisters here) and how they anticipate each other. The best parts of this comedy is just when these two are riffing in a scene and not trying too hard to sell the story. The story arch has to move along of course but it is during the more non-forced scenes you get a sense of what still makes these two so effective. They are aging and it is apparent but their enthusiasm and love of the work is still there. But first the story to set it up. Amy Poehler plays Maura who is a the straight laced always responsible sister who never got to let loose. Tina Fey is Katie, the happy go lucky one who had more sex than she could count accordingly to her diary in high school. This is a little bit more of a role reversal for the two and it is great at the beginning watching Fey fly her freak flag. The woman has a bent of sexuality that is just hiding beneath that surface that she doesn’t let peak out too often. When she uses it, it is very palatable with her type of comedy because it is tongue-in-cheek but she is also getting a kick out of it.
Unlike the way “Baby Mama” functioned, their bantering like when Fey is trying to get Poehler to ask a cute neighbor to the party feels just right, especially when Fey is making hand signals just away from where Poehler can see. The best part is when they are trying on clothes wearing them the wrong way on purpose because the physical comedy is really dead on. When it actually gets to the party, the set up almost undermines it and what should be the blow out seems more anticlimactic. The all stars come in with Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch and the overplayed (who believes he’s channeling Belushi) Bobby Moynihan keeping the party moving as Poehler attacks her pent up issues with her guy and Fey plays the party mom without going nuts. The side quips with drug and alcohol peddling bits by John Lequizamo and John Cena help because they are supposed to be the grounding force but the bits are too disjointed. The big build up to Poehler’s bound-to-go-wrong sex scene works and gets the laugh but in many ways, the movie (despite its verbal vulgarity) never quite hits extreme physical gags say of “Bridemaids”.
Jason Moore, famous for “Avenue Q” on Broadway and the first “Pitch Perfect”, keeps the pace moving and lets his girls run amuck but it still feels in the safe zone. The mother/father/daughters/granddaughter subplot and the losing of jobs is handled almost too hamhanded with the ending pretty much petering out in the essence of a happy ending. That is all fine but if you are doing a fairly hard R, there is more to be done. The supporting players actually get to do most of the questionable bits to varying degrees of success. You can see the Animal House just wanting to come out. The drugs are there but it seems like…safe. The two leads as talented as they are, are great to watch but you seem to get a feeling that they are playing nice, when all you want them to be is bad. But then again, they still have to clean it all up in the morning.
By Tim Wassberg