Sisters is the latest star witness in the case against film trailers – you wouldn’t be alone in thinking that this movie is one to avoid at all costs if the trailer is anything to go by. But in this case it isn’t – given room to breathe and with the audience having got to know the characters so that the scenes make sense in context, those unfunny clips in the trailer are vastly improved when it comes to watching the entire thing.
A fan of both Tina Fey (30 Rock) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), two of the more successful Saturday Night Live alumni, I was hoping Sisters wouldn’t turn out to be another Baby Mama, which marked the last time the two collaborated on a movie and which received a real slating from critics – and didn’t fare much better with audiences. Thankfully I can safely say this new film is a big improvement. The two portray middle-aged siblings (hence the unimaginative but functional title) who are told by their parents out of the blue that their childhood home is being sold and that they’ll have to come and clean out their bedroom: a believable mountain of clutter. Upset by their parents’ abrupt decision to leave all those memories behind, swapping them for a minimalist retirement community apartment, Maura and Kate decide to throw a massive house party to say goodbye to the place in style. And chaos inevitably ensues. It’s no spoiler to say that the house gets absolutely wrecked over the course of the next two hours, and the entertainment comes from watching it all unfold and knowing neither of the sisters will be able to stop it.
Playing wonderfully against type (in sharp contrast to the neurotic, tightly wound Liz Lemon of 30 Rock), Fey’s Kate is confident and cool but perpetually adolescent, sadly unable to relate to her more conservative teenage daughter Hayley (Madison Davenport). It’s great to see Fey able to let loose as the wilder of the siblings, and her struggle to take on the role of ‘party mom’ usually played by her younger sister Maura is depicted well. Poehler in her turn steps up to the plate as Maura, also stuck in the body of her teenage self but in a different way – tongue-tied or hopelessly crude in the face of men, and charmingly awkward and eager to please. These are stereotypes we’ve seen so many times but the two of them manage to bring a light touch and lovable wit to their respective roles, and they’re helped out by a large supporting cast. There are quite a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos from people 30 Rock fans will recognise, and Maya Rudolph – Bridesmaids, Away We Go – constantly threatens to steal the show as bitter, vengeful former classmate Brinda. Her rage-filled dancing outside the window during the party is one of the highlights, as is her encounter with the sisters at a local discount store when they’re stocking up for supplies. Rudolph really throws herself into this part, and you can tell she’s having an absolute whale of a time throughout. Among the rest of the cast, Ike Barinholtz from The Mindy Project impresses as love interest for Maura and comic foil James, and James Brolin and Dianne Wiest have some great moments too as the parents of the protagonists.
There’s nothing intellectual or challenging about this film – it’s one to devour a large tub of popcorn to, as the laughs come thick and fast. I enjoyed it far more than I was expecting to, and anyone suffering from withdrawal symptoms now that Fey and Poehler have stopped hosting the Golden Globes should too. It’s the kind of faintly surreal knockabout comedy we’ve come to expect from them both. If anything, the 118 minute run time is a little too lengthy for the genre but there’s so much going on that you barely notice the time passing.
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