Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Amy Poehler and Tina Fey were a part of one of the strongest, most hilarious casts in SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE history. Their first cinematic outing, BABY MAMA, wasn’t met with much critical acclaim or commercial success. However, we still continued to love them in their independent outings – like on TV in Fey’s 30 ROCK and THE UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT and Poehler’s INSIDE OUT. Both have also conquered the publishing world – Fey with Bossypants and Poehler with Yes Please. Now the dynamic duo reunite for somewhat of a do-over in director Jason Moore’s SISTERS. Unlike their original pairing, this latest romp is outrageously funny when it embraces raunchcom over serious heart.
Maura Ellis (Poehler) and her older sister Kate (Fey) couldn’t be any different; Maura is a straight-laced, ultra responsible do-gooder with a heart of a saint. Kate is a carefree, bawdy beauty stylist addicted to chaos, floating from job to job before getting evicted from her current abysmal apartment. Kate’s teen daughter Hayley (Madison Davenport), her polar (poehler?) opposite, begs her to become responsible, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. The close-knit sisters are summoned to Orlando by their parents (played by Diane Wiest and James Brolin) to clean out their bedrooms, as their childhood home is about to go on the market. Upon arrival, and after they objectify their hot handyman neighbor James (Ike Barinholtz), the girls learn the truth: their home has been sold to an insufferable yuppie couple. What to do? Throw a legendary house party – one final hurrah befitting the Ellis girls’ legacy. And they do it, making the kids of PROJECT X look like they hosted a tea party. However, when complications arise, it’s too late to stop the hijinks and hilarity-laced shenanigans.
There are a handful of scene-stealing performers, which mostly involve anyone from SNL or 30 ROCK. Brian D’Arcy James even shows up for one scene as a party guest. John Cena and John Leguizamo give great supporting performances, as the material plays to their strengths. Maya Rudolph, playing Kate’s adversary/ mean girl Brinda, is a delight. She plays it up without overplaying it. Perhaps though, the real MVPs are Bobby Moynihan, as annoying Alex, and Greta Lee, as nail technician Hae-won. Moynihan’s random outbursts, his “Dicasso” painting and hyper charades game are indelible and incomparable. Lee’s first scene with Poehler in the nail salon is genius, so simple and so effective at nailing the laughter. A sequence when Maura and Kate shop for party dresses in front of shocked shopgirl Bayla (Emily Tarver) is another standout. Plus seeing soft-spoken Wiest break into a tirade of swears is worth the price of admission.
Writer Paula Pell’s script overstates things too many times to count. We’ve already diagnosed the sisters’ psyches by the time we’re literally told what their problems are. It also takes a really long time to get the party – e.g. the story – started, which is too much time spent worrying about what we’re in for. Scenes prior to the party could stand to be tightened. Instead there’s a useless scene with the parents “day banging,” and an elongated stretch of the siblings reading their diaries to each other, telling us again what we already know about their personalities, alerting us to their impending character arcs.
It may not be perfect, but what sibling relationship ever is?!
SISTERS opens on December 18.