While watching Sisters you will invariably sense that you have seen this move before. However, aside from the obvious differences – such as the fact that our two irresponsible adults trying to relive their youth are women – the thing that sets this apart from other films of this ilk is the crackling chemistry between the two leads. As long time friends, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have a palpable connection that makes their on-screen relationships seem genuine, no matter how ridiculous the situations in which they find themselves. In Sisters, Fey and Poehler take on the types of characters and outlandish situations usually reserved for the likes of Will Ferrell and the two women throw themselves into their roles with gusto, the result of which is a movie far more entertaining than perhaps it may have otherwise been. The out-of-control-party as the central narrative device has been done many, many times before so it is great credit to the two leads that, amidst the nonsense, this does feel refreshing.
In a reversal of their character types from their previous collaboration – 2008’s Baby Mama – Fey plays the fuck-up against Poehler’s uptight straight-laced success story. Kate (Fey) is a hairdresser who can’t keep a job and has nowhere for her and her teenage daughter Haley (Madison Davenport) to live, while Poehler’s Maura is a recently divorced nurse who worries about everything. When the two find out that their parents are selling the family home, their initial outrage morphs into reminiscences about their past, which ultimately leads to plans for a last hurrah; one final, wild bash in an effort to recapture the spirit of their youth. The problem, for Maura at least, is that her teenage years were spent cleaning up after Kate – both literally and figuratively – at the expense of her own enjoyment. Thus, it is agreed that Kate will assume the role of ‘supervisor’ at the party, allowing Maura to cut loose for the first time in her life. The girls round up various old school friends and, needless to say, with copious amounts of alcohol at their disposal, the opportunity to break from the mundane lives they now lead proves irresistible and chaos ensues. There is a core nugget of truth here though and anybody who has had the life sucked out of them by work and children will understand just how liberating it would be to run amok without a care in the world, especially when you are not the one who has to clean it up.
Such is the comic timing and easy rapport between Fey and Poehler, their characters play more like best friends than sisters, especially given the fact that they look nothing alike. Whilst the two leads deliver the humour in sufficient doses, there are also plenty of fun moments courtesy of the various supporting players, from James Brolin and Diane Weist as their exasperated parents, to Maya Rudolph as gate-crashing uppity spoilsport Brinda, to the handsome neighbour James (Ike Barinholtz) on whom Maura has set her sights or Korean beautician Hae-Won (Greta Lee). On the other hand, unfunny Alex (Bobby Moynihan) is not at all funny in his unfunniness and his role is significant enough for this to become an ongoing annoyance. The likes of John Leguizamo, John Cena and Rachel Dratch also feature amongst the party-goers.
There is a sudden (but certainly not unexpected) tonal shift at the end of the chaos as the potty-mouthed screwball comedy becomes a redemptive tale about the importance of family. It becomes obvious that that the two girls are going to settle into a life of domestic drudgery, which is a disappointing end to a film that had been, until that point, about making every effort to avoid exactly that. Even though Director Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) and writer Paula Pell (a SNL alumni) have ultimately opted for safe instead of subversive, there are enough genuinely funny moments courtesy of the two leading ladies to make Sisters a surprisingly satisfying experience.