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Rated: R / Runtime: 1h 58m

In Sisters, the house party runs rampant over its director, escaping its comedy reigns and trashing a perfectly average movie.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s counterprogramming to the Star Wars bonanza occurring the very same weekend, knows and loves its chosen demographic. The wine moms, middle-aged former party animals who’ve looked in the mirror one day and realized that they’d somehow grown up.

Fey and Poehler star as archetypically afflicted siblings, single mom Kate (Fey) the hotheaded former party girl and divorced Maura (Poehler) the hyper-responsible killjoy. While Poehler gave us a more endearingly nerdy matriarch in Parks and Recreation, Fey struts as the burned-out diva. The pair, through various convoluted circumstances, have found themselves returning to their childhood home for one last night before its sale to some yuppies (are we still hating yuppies? What year is it?). This means it’s time to throw a rager for one last hoorah at the glory days.

The titular duo have plenty of chemistry, which makes sense – the two are long-time friends/comedy partners – but this often leads to sub-Apatow joke riffing and improvisation. If a joke wasn’t funny the first time, don’t worry, you’ll hear it four or five slightly different ways immediately afterwards. Director Jason Moore (of Pitch Perfect fame) has a knack for showcasing modern comedy within slightly-warped cliches – the acapella tournaments and outgrown house parties of his movies – but allows the chaos to consume him. Often the structure will be lost and the weight of the movie placed entirely on its verbally-sparring leads.

Typically, this wouldn’t be a damning sin for a comedy, especially one with such bastions as Fey and Poehler leading the mix, but without tight pacing, the movie flies off the rails long before the party follows suit. Escalation can be an affectation when the laughs don’t scale accordingly. A few good gags focus mainly on the co-stars: Ike Barinholtz’s unflappable deadpan, John Cena’s use mainly as a prop, and Greta Lee’s facial contortions trying to pronounce English names provide moments of underutilized charm.

However, the majority of the film focuses either on a few flimsy plot threads aimed at highlighting Kate and Maura’s faults (and incorporating their parents, the completely miscast James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) or two-person conversations featuring one of the sisters that sound like rejected sketch comedy routines. Bobby Moynihan and Maya Rudolph both fall on the comedic grenade, as they are required to spout thankless inanities in roles like full-course amuse-bouches – no longer cleansing the palate, their shtick wears thin until becoming sickeningly indigestible.

Mixed messages about growing up and embracing the self-actualized “you” suffer a head-on collision from which there are no survivors. Nonsensical throwaways grate against achingly sincere complaints from Kate’s daughter, asking us to care at the silliest moment of absurdity. That the path to the feel-good message takes a dozen montages to bridge the gaps in humor just adds another warning sign along the road.

During the end credits of the film, Fey and Poehler break contagiously in an onscreen blooper reel that got the biggest laughs of the night. We like seeing them have a good time, but their cutting-room floor clippings let us share all their joy without the unfunny tedium required to string the narrative of Sisters together.

Jacob Oller is an Oklahoma City film critic and writer. Find more of his work at or

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