FILM REVIEW – SISTERS. With Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, James Brolin, Dianne Wiest. Written by Paula Pell. Directed by Jason Moore. Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use. 118 minutes.
SISTERS is the sort of comedy Adam Sandler wishes he could do. It’s about two sisters and their friends more than twenty years out of high school trying to recapture their lost youth. It takes a while to get rolling, but when it finally does, its offers a lot of goofy (and often tasteless) comedy before delivering a message about having to finally grow up.
Maura and Kate Ellis (Amy Poehler, Tina Fey) discover that their parents have sold the family home in Orlando so they can move into a retirement community. Maura is a nurse and was the good girl, while Kate, out of work again as a stylist, was the wild one. Now both return home to pack up their stuff and having one last bash with their old friends.
Most of the movie is taken up with the party which starts out with a bunch of boring forty-somethings but evolves–or devolves–into the sort of wild party they would have thrown if their parents weren’t home. As things spin more and more out of control, it will lead to several showdowns among characters–including the sisters with their parents (James Brolin, Dianne Wiest)–before the (no spoilers) inevitable happy ending.
What makes it work is that they avoid the mistake that Sandler and kindred comedy star Melissa McCarthy make. Neither plays their character as aggressively stupid. Kate has a temper, particularly when it comes to an old frenemy played by Maya Rudolph, but she’s a lot of fun and wants to get her divorced sister back in the game. When a hunky neighbor (Ike Barinholtz) proves available, she’s eager to get them together. When he proves as sweet as Maura, it leads to a tasteless–and very funny–scene involved a misplaced wind-up ballerina.
This is very much R-rated humor, which the rating getting it exactly right. The “sexual content” is undeniably “crude.” The supporting characters (who include Sandra Bee and John Leguizamo) engage in all sorts of innuendo, but the only one who is really the butt of the jokes is the prissy Rudolph who is redeemed, sort of, in the end. Otherwise these are characters who like each other or at least aren’t mean to each other. The ending is a bit on the sappy “make everything all right” side, but after the wanton destruction and debauchery witnessed it will seem all right. Poehler and Fey, who worked together on “Saturday Night Live” and in the 2008 disappointment “Baby Mama,” have an easy rapport.
It may seem odd opening “Sisters” opposite the new “Star Wars” film as there’s no question which will be number 1–by a wide margin–at the box office. However, “Sisters” is smart counter-programming, and should stick around long enough for audiences to find it. Like the similar Zac Efron/Seth Rogen comedy “Neighbors,” it’s a movie that lets Gen Xers indulge in their wild youth while reminding them that time has marched on.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.