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Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015 12:04 am

Sisters a ribald treat

Amy Poehler as Maura Ellis and Tina Fey as Kate Ellis in Sisters.
PHOTO COURTESY Universal Pictures

 

What with their comedy Sisters being released on the same day as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you can’t help but wonder what its stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did to doom their film to such a fate. While I understand the thinking behind providing counter-programming, Universal Pictures is really putting that marketing strategy to the test by releasing this movie when they are. Did something have to be sacrificed to the film gods and Sisters’ director Jason Moore was the one that drew the short straw? Woe is him…

Of course, the other assumption to make is that the movie must be a dog. I am happy to report that this is not the case. While no comedy classic, Sisters does manage to deliver its fair share of belly laughs, unafraid to push the envelope where appropriateness is concerned, as Fey and Poehler have no problem getting down and dirty if the end goal is to tickle the audience’s funny bone.

The story from Saturday Night Live alum Paula Pell couldn’t be more simple. On the surface, the only thing siblings Kate (Fey) and Maura Ellis (Poehler) seem to share is their bloodline. The former is a wild child who partied throughout high school, gravitates towards bad boys, can’t keep a job to save her life and has a teenage daughter (Madison Davenport) who essentially takes care of her. On the other hand, Maura is the overachieving do-gooder, the one who helps the homeless, comes up with her own inspirational sayings and saves her money for a rainy day. Despite these differences the two have always been close, and they reunite when they get the news their parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) have sold their house, the home the girls grew up in.

Outraged, the two women return to their old stomping grounds in order to get the last of their belongings and wind up staying longer than they thought when Kate decides they should throw one last big bash at the homestead. Again, as far as plotting goes, Pell is not going to be in any Oscar conversations where her screenplay is concerned. However, where she succeeds is in giving her two co-stars some genuinely funny gags to run through, all of which the actresses are more than willing to give the old college try. Fey and Poehler’s willingness to look foolish as well as deliver a dirty joke benefits the film greatly. The sight of them and their fellow middle-age friends trying to recapture their glory days, if just for one evening, also sets up some effective gags, especially when the script’s most clever turn occurs as party girl Kate is suddenly given a reason to straighten up and fly right and tries desperately to bring the festivities to an abrupt end.

Able support is given by screen veteran John Leguizamo, SNL alums Bobby Moynihan, Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch, as well as pro-wrestler John Cena who delivers his second, deftly executed comic performance of the year. Who’d a thunk it?

Sisters certainly isn’t a movie you’ll remember much after you leave the lobby of your local cinema, and if there’s anything to be gained from it that would be to remind yourself to call ahead when dropping by to see your parents, lest you witness something that will change your perception of them forever. However, if you’re looking for a bit of relief from the stress of the holidays, you could do much worse than spending a bit of time with Fey, Poehler and their dysfunctional friends.   

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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