The 400-Word-Review: Sisters
By Sean Collier
December 22, 2015
The nearly unmatched comedic talents of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, easily two of the funniest humans currently living, has not yet made for big-screen magic.
Fey’s Date Night, with Steve Carell, was funny enough, but the bewildering Admission was utterly devoid of laughs, as was This is Where I Leave You. Mean Girls was quite good, but now exists in the somewhat distant past. As for Poehler, she’s excelled in smaller roles and smaller pictures, but has done most of her film work as a voice actress; Inside Out is probably the best movie either performer has been a part of to date.
The previous high-profile collaboration between the two stars, Baby Mama, wasn’t particularly impressive either. That film, however, wasn’t produced by Fey, who has considerably more sway in 2015. And it was written by unremarkable scribe Michael McCullers, whose only other feature works are the first two Austin Powers movies (and I don’t recall anyone raving over those for their scripts).
Sisters, on the other hand, is produced by Fey, among others. And it’s written by criminally underappreciated comedy writer Paula Pell, a veteran of “SNL,” “30 Rock” and the Judd Apatow camp. Unlike McCullers — or many of the writers who’ve put Fey and Poehler through less-than-great material in the past — Pell seems to understand that these two are at their best when their characters are genuine, not parodic.
Katie (Fey) and Maura Ellis (Poehler) are not exactly thriving. Katie can’t hold down a job (or an address) and her teenage daughter is usually AWOL; Maura exudes Type-A confidence, but is fresh out of an ugly divorce. When their parents (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) announce that they’ve decided to sell the childhood home, the sisters return to try and convince them otherwise; finding the sale already all but final, they instead decide to exorcise their demons by way of a massive, college-style blowout.
The ensuing hijinks are more about grown-ups attempting to reclaim their youth than arrested development. An all-star cast of genuinely funny people — Maya Rudolph, Samantha Bee, Rachel Dratch, John Leguizamo, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan and more — makes Sisters easily entertaining. But it’s the very genuine relationship between Fey and Poehler that makes it lovely and heartwarming. It may be the first time these two have a big comedy worthy of their talent, but it certainly won’t be the last.
My Rating: 8/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark