Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hold an old school throwdown for people too old to party |K. C. Bailey, Universal Pictures1/2
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hold an old school throwdown for people too old to party |K. C. Bailey, Universal Pictures
All hail John Cena, who's as funny in "Sisters" as he was in "Trainwreck."2/2
All hail John Cena, who's as funny in "Sisters" as he was in "Trainwreck."
Director: Jason Moore
Stars: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey
3 (out of 5) Globes
Seth Rogen has cornered the market on movies about manchildren anguishing over aging, usually with the help of copious drink and drugs and raunchy set pieces. “Sisters” doesn’t make a big deal about doing the same thing for women. Female twists on the Rogen/Apatow formula tend to balance their comedic and serious sides; “Bridesmaids” is as much an ad-lib yuk-fest as it is a shambling, brutally honest look at ennui. The second Amy Poehler-Tina Fey joint has its dark side, but it mostly drowns its sorrows in full tilt boogie hedonism. It’s a crazier, filthier, swearier film than the Rogen-led “The Night Before,” and it even knows how to make the fun hurt more.
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Its melancholic streak is set up from the start so that it can bubble underneath, like a Sunday morning ready to come down. Poehler and Fey play Maura and Kate, opposites-attract siblings — the former uptight and do-gooder; the latter freewheeling and perpetually broke — who discover their parents (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) have just sold their precious childhood home to some douchey yuppies. Maura was too busy being good to enjoy her youth; Kate meanwhile is despondent that she’s no longer young, though still dumb. At first, the wild party they hatch for their high school pals is the kind that happens when early-middle-agers congregate: lots of sitting, lots of talk of “vaginal rejuvenation,” lots of regret over time grinding people into dust.
It takes some doing to get these olds to destroy both a swanky Florida manse and their bodies. But once things kick up 10 or 12 notches, “Sisters” never looks back. It’s a party film in the vein of Blake Edwards’ “The Party” or, slightly less charitably, “Can’t Hardly Wait,” only with people who’ve been made boring by time unleashing their inner larval maniacs. “Let’s party like Vikings, because we may die tomorrow,” Kate declaims as she declares the party turn awesome.
The Rogen Men Behaving Badly films always brood over looming maturity killing the good times, but there’s always another party, always another raucous movie. “Sisters” feels End Times. The characters won’t only wake up with unusually nasty hangovers (provided they don’t just wake up at 7 a.m. and lie there, dead, unable to fall back asleep no matter how late they stayed up). Come morning they’ll have to return to their problems, be they financial pickles, go-nowhere jobs or simply the dull monotony of the existence they’ve carved out for themselves.
But yes, ignore that for now. There’s drinks and drugs. There’s Bobby Moynihan playing an always “on” never-funny aspiring comedian who accidentally Hoovers up some futuristic combo of blow and heroin. There’s John Cena, 2015’s Leftield Comedy MVP, as a dealer with an epic neck tattoo and sporting the same ridiculous name as “Exorcist II”’s demon Pazuzu. Two-time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest says something that we absolutely cannot print. There is mass destruction and plowed-through dry wall. There’s also more token sad comedy bits: the charming nice guy love interest (here, Ike Barinholtz, gamely going where Chris O’Dowd and Jake Lacy have gone before); the third act unveiled secret that threatens to ruin the central relationship and the fun.
“Sisters” has a hard time stopping once the party has ended, but when it’s moving it knows how to move. Despite their live TV bona fides as a dynamic duo, Poehler and Fey haven’t had the best of luck with movies, separate or apart. Their first film, “Baby Mama,” was fathoms beneath them, even if its box office success likely made them able to move onto the greener pastures of awards presenting. “Sisters” is more their speed, and it’s funnier and sadder than most Rogens, if less so when it turns to stock business about whether Kate and Maura will heal some interpersonal wounds or if Maura will nail the new dude of her dreams. When it’s just an out-of-control party stacked with people a few years from worrying about arthritis, it’s kind of magical.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge