Review: Family ties of Fey, Poehler tested by ‘Sisters’

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Published: December 18, 2015 10:18:41 AM

In ''Sisters,'' Tina Fey and Amy Poehler attempt to bring the most teenage of comedy genres -- the house-party movie, that of keg stands and drunken hook-ups -- into middle age.

In ”Sisters,” Tina Fey and Amy Poehler attempt to bring the most teenage of comedy genres — the house-party movie, that of keg stands and drunken hook-ups — into middle age.

They’re a long way from your usual such hosts — your Belushis and your Efrons — and that’s the point. Trying on ill-fitting, spandex dresses for their planned big bash, they request something ”a little less Forever 21 and a little more Suddenly 42.”

The film, written by Paula Pell (a ”Saturday Night Live” veteran, like Poehler and Fey) and directed by Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect”), is a brazenly crude farce about female arrested development that doesn’t so much seek to rise above its ludicrous absurdity as much as ride it out.

It’s a bumpy ride. While the tremendous wit and chemistry of Fey and Poehler is unquestioned, the latest big-screen meeting of the former ”Weekend Update” hosts and frequent Golden Globes team feels overwhelming misjudged: a comedy that plays to neither’s strengths. For starters, it’s hard to imagine either being from Orlando.

That’s the hometown of Maura (Poehler) and Kate Ellis (Fey), whose parents (played by Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) are selling their childhood home. This brings out oddly passionate feelings in Kate, a single-mother and jobless beautician.

Fey, the poster woman of quick-witted comic smarts, has here been cast against type. She’s the promiscuous, partying mess, while Poehler is the responsible, earnest career woman, recently divorced. It’s a miscalculation that does more to doom ”Sisters” than anything else.

Fey and Poehler are, however, extremely game for the movie and up for any silliness or embarrassment if it gets a laugh. With their parents’ house already sold, they nostalgically sift through the relicts of their `80s-adorned bedroom and decide to invite their old high school classmates to an old-fashioned rager at ”Ellis Island.”

The attendees are mostly parents that no longer know how to let loose, but a concoction of alcohol, drugs and desperation eventually unleashes a wildly freewheeling party that, naturally, spins out of control. There are handful of solid guests like Maya Rudolph (as Kate’s nemesis), John Cena (as a drug dealer, making his second fine comedy cameo of the year following ”Trainwreck”) and John Leguizamo (as a sleazy alcoholic).

But is there any doubt that as soon as Bobby Moynihan’s sweaty nerd rings the doorbell, he’s going to steal the movie?

There are laughs here, for sure, like the uptight New Yorker couple buying the home, who declare: ”I want the front yard to be open concept.”

But as has so often been the case when it comes to Fey’s movie choices, an opportunity has been lost. It’s becoming increasingly clear that if she’s ever to star in a movie as good as anything else she’s done (from ”30 Rock” to her book, ”Bossypants”) she’s going to have to write it herself.

In the meantime, she and Poehler host this week’s ”Saturday Night Live.” Now that should be good.

”Sisters,” a Universal Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for ”crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use.” Running time: 118 minutes. Two stars out of four.

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