Fey And Poehler Are Great, But Not In ‘Sisters’

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are two of the most popular funny women around, which makes me wonder how they could have gone so wrong with Sisters. They are known to pal around, talk about their long friendship, and everyone has seen how well they worked together on Saturday Night Live and several awards shows. But this movie is, unfortunately, a dud.

The idea behind it is that Kate (Fey) is a total loser who can’t hold down a job as a hairdresser and has no control at all over her daughter (Madison Davenport), who actually seems to be the adult in their relationship. Her sister Maura (Poehler) is a driven, do-gooder type; a nurse who seems to want to save any animal she finds.

When they discover that their parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) have sold the home they grew up in, moved to a senior citizens community, and now want the girls to come and take the things they want from when they were growing up, the two do the obvious thing: Hold a wild party that might well destroy the old place. Huh? It makes no sense to me, either.

They know the building inspector will be showing up after the weekend to check out the condition of the place so their parents can sell it; why not mess up the deal? Particularly since the parents have already bought a new place and not getting a sale could ruin them.

They hold the party and the guest list seems like an audition for losers. No one there seems to have any brains at all. Many Saturday Night Live stars have cameos; almost all are wasted. Watching middle-aged people do the silly, stupid things that teens do in similar movies is not enjoyable. Watching teens do those things gets old fast; the desire to see those same folks 20 years later demonstrating that they have learned nothing goes nowhere.

That Maura wants to have sex in the same bed she grew up in seems strange to me, but that’s what the writers wanted. Kate called it a “rite of passage” and pushed for her to do it to balance out the number of times Kate had done it. There is a feud with an old rival, and a lot of middle-aged people use drugs and alcohol to fuel a loud and incredibly dumb party. The drug dealer Pazuzu (John Cena) provides not only the drugs but a lot of the laughs.

The real problem with this movie is that it just is not very funny. Fey and Poehler both write funny material. Unfortunately, Paula Pell wrote the movie, and although both actresses work hard to make the material work, there is far too little there. The movie works reasonably well when it’s just the two together, where their bond really works. But the jokes are few, weak and far between. Perhaps if the stars had written it, we would have had far more laughs. But they did not.

I am sorry the film is so weak. There are not enough comedies made, and the two leads are great. But we have all seen movies like Animal House and its subsequent “children.” They were funny; not only well-written, but they reminded us of the fun we had when we were young (even though almost none of us were even as remotely wild as the screen characters). It is less funny, however, watching adults do the same things.

Also, a movie like Bridesmaids showed that watching women do gross things just might be funny, but then again, Melissa McCarthy is fantastic at broad comedy. The cast in this movie is not. Cena was the only standout performer, and his part was not a major one. That his work is so noticeable is just another sign that everything else was really weak.

Even worse from the point of view of the producers and distributors of the film, it opened the same day as Star Wars. That was not the big mistake; after all this was made for people who don’t want to see that film. The big mistake was not putting out a really funny movie.

I wanted to like the film. I like to encourage comedies, and I like the lead actresses. But this is a movie you should wait to see on cable television, if at all.