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Friday, March 18, 2016

Sisters. Tina and Amy are the GREAT Duos.


There's no shortage of comedic talent on screen, yet Sisters plays a bit like a raunchy stand up routine, loosely stitched together by a narrative that begs for more than crass, out-to-shock verbal torrents. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are two formidable talents and they work the material (by 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live writer Paula Pell) as well as anyone could. It's certainly entertaining to watch these attractive, smart women at work. For me, the disappointment is that the material simply does not fire. It does has its moments and some of the ideas have balls, but it lacks any relationship with reality, which is crucial for any serious comedy if it is not funny enough to spiral on its own lunacy.

The film starts well with an attention grabbing Skype scene in which James Brolin and Diane Wiest (as the sisters' parents Bucky and Deana) drop the bombshell to their responsible, do-gooder daughter Maura (Poehler), that they are going to sell the family home. This is the setup and it is up to Maura to tell her irresponsible sister Kate (Fey) the news. It only takes one scene with Kate for us to see first hand that she has no idea about keeping a job, a home, or a relationship with her smart teenage daughter Haley (Madison Davenport). But then, it's as though Pell forgets Maura and Kate's personalities, as they head home to Orlando, where both act like airheads for one last hurrah.

The fact that the house has already been vacated and sold is the springboard for the two girls extending an invitation to all their old friends for one last party, where tequila shots, drugs, blue paint and an overload of dishwashing detergent all play a part. Highly memorable is the scene in which a ballerina music box accidentally finds its way into an unmentionable orifice of Maura's new boyfriend James (Ike Barinholtz) during an intimate moment. It is with a mix of disgust and fascination that we watch the pink base of the music box twirl, while Beethoven's Fur Elise plays once too many times. The fact that Maura is a nurse and uses the nurse-equivalent line to 'Trust me; I'm a doctor' as an action point, is quite funny.

The party is an excuse for a bawdy gathering of the subdued and not so subdued, including Maya Rudolph's unpopular, unwelcome Brinda, who endures all kinds of humiliations. I like the originality of the scene in which the po-faced Korean manicurist Hae-Won (Greta Lee introduces herself before the final payoff at the party, but the arrival of the loud lesbians and insufferable Alex (Bobby Moynihan) is less successful.

The material is stretched further than it can bear and the film wears rather thin by the end, despite some laughs along the way. As for Fey and Poehler, they come out shining despite everything. On its own terms, the film will find its audience - especially after a few shots and slices of pizza, but it could have been so much more.