Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ike Berenholz, John Cena, John Leguizamo, Dianne Wiest, James Brolin, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Bobby Moynihan, Kate McKinnon, Chris Parnell, Madison Davenport
The rule with comedy is pretty simple: it has to be funny. Though the family here is under-defined, and the journey isn’t at all surprising – everything is merely a setup for a gag instead of having an actual plot – there are plenty of laughs in this Orlando-based two-hour skit.
For example: when the two drunken sisters meet O-town’s finest, one slurs, “Officer Donuts, why don’t you jump back into your squad car and go save a kitten up a tree, because these pussies are fiiiinne.”
This prolonged sketch comedy utilizes a LOT of Saturday Night Live alums and the director of Pitch Perfect. It aims for Bridesmaids funny. Without unique characters and solid architecture, it’ll never get there. Still, these devoted Sisters provide some solid chuckles. That’s only because Fey and Poehler work so well together.
Both Kate and Maura Ellis (Fey and Poehler respectively) were well known in the ‘80s, in high school. Their “Ellis Island” parties were legendary. Unfortunately, both haven’t been able to grow up since then.
“We keep trying to pass the baton on to you,” says their stiff dad Brolin (Note, Mr. Brolin, comedy isn’t your thing.). “You keep refusing to take it!”
“Take the baton!” hisses Momma Wiest.
Kate is a mess, a hairdresser who quits or gets fired from job after job. Even her daughter (Davenport) cannot stand to be around her. Sister Maura is the careful, mothering type – a recently divorced nurse who needs to be needed. When Mom and Dad announce they’re selling the family home, the siblings take this opportunity to throw one last epic house party reminiscent of their glory days.
The gimmick is that, since Maura has never cut loose, Kate agrees to responsibly mother the party while persnickety Maura lets her freak flag fly.
You can already guess what’s going to happen to the family’s split-level ranch.
Local girl Paula Pell – a writer for Saturday Night Live for years – created these parts for Fey and Poehler. Pell has at the very least a great situation, but it feels like she gave all the actors too much leeway for improvisation. In most movies, this freedom may frequently be funny – as it is here – but it grinds the skimpy plot to a halt for setups and gags. At two hours, it’s safe to say Sisters doesn’t move for quite some time for this slapstick. This should’ve been closer to 90 minutes.
Many, many, other SNL and comedy compatriots get their bits. Cena proves his humor in Trainwreck wasn’t a fluke. Moynihan is fun as a coked-up madman. Lesbian McKinnon gets to make fun of her own kind. Rudolph and Dratch fare less well in their less funny parts.
I’m going to say what I always say about these SNL comedies, and Farrell comedies, and Sandler comedies, etcetera, etcetera… Stop with the improv and write a complete script!
If Pell had defined the characters and their conflicts more specifically, it’d be waaay funnier. (See Bridesmaids.) If there was more plot and plot twist – and much less improvisational comedy, the stuff we can see at any comedy club – the flick would further increase the funny. (Look to Fey’s Mean Girls.)
As it is, Fey and Poehler are excellent together. So, Sisters comes off as a well-filmed improv comedy skit with acting pros filling in what the writer should have.