Thursday, 7 January 2016

Film Review: Sisters

What do you get when Leslie Knope and Liz Lemon throw the party to end all parties? Utter madness, as proven by Jason Moore’s Sisters.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are one of Hollywood’s funniest and most popular double acts, so it might come as a surprise that the duo have never shared the limelight on a film before now; they struck gold when hosting the Golden Globes and are known the world over as the leading ladies on 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation respectively, but the chance to join forces on a major comedy film hasn’t come around – until now.

Said film is called Sisters, and it sees Fey and Poehler, who first met whilst working on the hugely popular US sketch show Saturday Night Live, convert their dynamite off-screen rapport into an infectious on-screen chemistry that you simply can’t manufacture or reproduce. The BBF’s play Kate (Fey) and Maura (Poehler) Ellis, two siblings who are horrified to discover that their parents (played by James Brolin and Diane West) are selling the house they grew up in. Tasked with journeying down to Miami and removing their childhood trinkets, Kate and Maura decide to bid farewell to the family home by throwing one last major rager that’ll metaphorically, and literally, bring the house down.

With free-flowing dialogue and a script that draws life from improvisation, Sisters is a riotous film that bounces around and doesn’t withhold anything; Kate and Maura’s party soon escalates from swapping colonoscopy stories to unchecked drug-fuelled mayhem. The snappy wordplay between the two sisters is the real highlight as Poehler and Fey exchange barbs and gags with one another as if no one is watching.

Like most parties, some of the more fervent guests overstay their welcome; Bobby Moynihan (another SNL cast member) plays Alex, a dorky classmate who mistakenly snorts something extremely potent and blunders about the house incoherently screaming about feeling his hair grow. It’s a gag that works really well maybe once or twice, but director Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) decides to switch back to his jittery antics over and over until it wears thin.

In fact, this sentiment can be stretched to include the party sequence as a whole; funny at first, but as layer upon layer of madness are slathered on like a wobbly and unpredictable trifle, it does start to get a touch tiresome. The major exception to this rule is Maya Rudolph as Brinda, a stuck-up high-school rival trying to muscle in on the fun; Rudolph brings a surprising amount of physical comedy to the role as she prances around trying to ruin it for everyone.

After stealing the show in Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, John Cena continues to flex his comedic muscles here; the wrestler/internet meme plays a deadpan drug dealer with neck tattoos and a briefcase full of meds. His infrequent, yet hilarious, observations on the party make for a brilliant running joke that doesn’t get driven into the ground. That being said, at 118 minutes, Sisters does prolong the fun longer than most hit-it-and-quit-it comedies; some trimming here and there might’ve kept the action feeling punchy and concise.

Amongst the mayhem, Moore attempts to thread an emotional narrative involving Kate’s daughter Haley (Madison Davenport), but it sadly gets lost and largely ignored in favour of sillier, more superficial storytelling. The film does attempt to convey some kind of central moral, but you’d be forgiven for missing it.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

Sisters is fundamentally just one big excuse for Poehler and Fey to let loose and toss everything they have into one huge melting pot of suburban stupidity; they throw a lot of stuff at walls and, for the most part, it sticks. An elongated length and muddled messaging are the only drawbacks on an otherwise unruly comedy from the two Hollywood heavyweights.

Sisters is in cinemas across Australia from today. 

This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.

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