The pure bliss of simply seeing Tina Fey and Amy Poehler reunited on screen for something other than an awards ceremony makes “Sisters” worth the price of admission. These two comediennes feed off each other in a way that no other pair can match, and there is never a dull moment since their live wire energy can always produce sparks.
Whether the material they work with is as good as they are, however, is another matter. “Sisters” piles on the raunch and the craziness, which is slightly out of their usual wheelhouse of safe for network TV antics. Paula Pell’s script is a hard R, and those laughs come somewhat at the expense of genuine characters.
The duo’s last big screen outing, 2008’s “Baby Mama,” found that sweet spot of believable exaggeration for both women, stretching responsibility and irresponsibility to rational extremes. “Sisters” casts Poehler as the good egg of the siblings, the youngest child who strove to overachieve out of genuine compassion for others, and it’s almost like getting to watch her play Leslie Knope again.
Fey, on the other hand, throws everyone for a loop by playing the callous, selfish older sister. It proves surprising, even jarring, to watch scenes where she is not the smartest person in the room. Heck, sometimes it even seems like it throws her for a loop. Tossing out insults and profanities – rather than receiving such barbs from the “30 Rock” cast – is something she gradually grows into over the course of “Sisters.”
The first forty minutes or so get off to a bit of a rocky start as Pell and director Jason Moore plow through exposition and other details we might need in order to fully enjoy what follows. Ellis sisters Maura (Poehler) and Kate (Fey) get beckoned back to their childhood home in Florida to clean out their junk so their parents can move out officially. Though both are at vastly different maturity levels, neither wants to lose this precious thread to their youth. So their response, naturally, is to throw a high school-style party for their now-adult friends.
The festivities start as a sad assortment of people bemoaning their middle age or embracing it in unexpected ways. But after all the sadness gets aired out, the raucous fun begins as a series of wild gags powers a solid hour of entertainment. What happens at this “Ellis Island” Party (wordplay that works all too well) pushes both Maura and Kate towards reckonings they need to have in their lives, a very positive development from proceedings that would otherwise just be a bloated sketch comedy scene.
But, to be fair, so much of the enjoyment of “Sisters” is just from being party to the party. Watching this showcase of so many talented comedians – Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ike Barinholtz, Bobby Moynihan, Samantha Bee, Kate McKinnon – interacting and letting their freak flags fly is a welcome sight. The only thing that bothers me is that, no matter how many times I watch this party, there will never come a day when I can step inside the movie and be there myself. B+ /