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New Release Review - SISTERS

A pair of forty-something sisters throw one final party in their childhood home.


Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Jason Moore

Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, John Cena, John Leguizamo, James Brolin, Kate McKinnon, Dianne Wiest, Maya Rudolph, Heather Matarazzo


Without its two leads (and some great supporting performers, most notably Greta Lee, whose comic timing makes a lot of her gags funnier than they should be) Sisters would be an absolute dud. As it is, it's a misfire barely saved by the endearing company of two genuine stars.





While there's a drought of talented male comic performers in contemporary American cinema, their female counterparts have risen to the fore, with the likes of Lake Bell, Julia Louis Dreyfuss and Jenny Slate winning accolades for their recent turns in a slew of impressive indies. In the mainstream we have the duo of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, now as famous for their Golden Globe hosting gigs as for their long running TV sitcoms 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation. Fey and Poehler's small screen success has thus far failed to translate to the multiplex, and Sisters is yet another waste of their talents.
As with her Parks & Rec character, Poehler's Maura is an uptight forty-something do-gooder here. Over skype, Maura learns that her parents (an under-used Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) have put the family home up for sale. This doesn't go down well with Maura's older sister Katie (Fey), who was hoping to move home due to financial trouble. While cleaning out their childhood bedroom, nostalgia kicks in and the duo decide to throw one final party in a bid to relive their teen years.
For the first 30 minutes or so of Sisters I had a contented grin on my face, chuckling along to the film until it eventually reached a point where I realised I was simply coasting along on the energy of Fey and Poehler. The script, by SNL writer Paula Pell, is devoid of wit, and a mere two days after viewing the film I can't recall a single one-liner. What makes this more annoying is that Fey is herself a supremely talented comedy writer, as her work on 30 Rock and Mean Girls shows. As a performer, she brings a manic exuberance to her role that goes some way to papering over the cracks in the script, as does Poehler's likeable charm.
That's not enough to sustain a movie that runs for two hours. Most of the film is an extended party sequence, one that takes a one scene joke from Trading Places and stretches it to snapping point. There are characters like John Cena's drug dealer who just stand around with nothing to contribute, and a prissy Game of Thrones addict played by Maya Rudolph, so poorly fleshed out that we're never sure if the film wants us to hate her or feel sorry for her. A flashback to the protagonists in their school years would have gone a long way towards providing some much needed context, and a glimpse at the cast list suggests such sequences were filmed but ultimately cut. That's an odd decision, as there's a hell of a lot of needless filler in the final cut that could have been easily excised to accommodate it.
Without its two leads (and some great supporting performers, most notably Greta Lee, whose comic timing makes a lot of her gags funnier than they should be) Sisters would be an absolute dud. As it is, it's a misfire barely saved by the endearing company of two genuine stars.
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