First of all, I watched Sisters with my sister, which I think we can all agree is the optimal viewing arrangement. I wanted to bond over it and love the movie wholeheartedly and discover it has been treated totally unfairly in the box office. We didn’t really bond over it (though we did laugh out loud at the same parts), I didn’t love it, but I did walk away thinking it has been treated unfairly by critics and the general public. The movie has a mediocre plot but it makes up for it with a talented cast and persistent comedy.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler play Kate & Maura Ellis, adult sisters meeting up at their childhood home to clean out their shared room before their parents sell the house. When the women get there they discover not only has the house already been sold, but their parents have settled in comfortably in a retirement community. The sisters are faced with the reality that their parents’ lives have continued without them and in a last ditch effort to cling to childhood, they throw a rager at the vacant house and invite all their high school friends. Very much against type, Fey’s Kate is “the wild one,” jobless and with a teenage daughter more mature than her. Poehler’s Maura is a divorced nurse who has never let loose in the shadow of her older sister.
Though the story is straightforward and boring, the laughs stay consistent despite the overused character and plot tropes. Some jokes are specifically for the women in the audience (which may be why so many men had trouble finding its merit) but there is enough universal humor to keep anyone entertained. For every tampon joke, there’s a penis joke right behind it; for every nail salon quip, there’s a rectum pun bringing up the… well, you get it. The laughs aren’t used sparingly and the movie is constantly funny which helps maintain interest when the plot leans too far into Rom-Com territory.
At two minutes shy of two hours, the movie is a half an hour too long and it definitely feels like it at some points. The sisters try on ridiculous club dresses together for few minutes after it stops being entertaining; they read their diaries out loud far longer than needed for personality exposition; Poehler awkwardly flirts with her parents’ neighbor far past amusing and into uncomfortable; and there are one too many falling-through-the-ceiling gags (one is enough, no?). Some scenes are superfluous, some just go on too long, but the pacing could do with a tweak and there are times the character development is too drawn out and spread too thick (we get it- Kate needs to figure her life out and Maura needs to get laid).
While Kate struggles to grow up and win back the affection of her daughter, Maura steps into Kate’s figurative party girl shoes. Where the unremarkable plot may have sunk the film, the bit players succeed it raising it back up to a meaningful comedy. Predictably, the party gets out of hand, drugs are consumed, and the house is trashed. Not so predictably, John Cena kills it as the stone faced drug dealer and inventor of the fleshlight, Samantha Bee perfectly embodies the middle aged mother getting back in touch with her freak side (read: often shirtless and oversharing vaginal birth horrors), and Greta Lee brings fresh humor to the Korean manicurist trope and delivers some of the funniest lines in the film.
Lee plays Hae-Won, invited to the epic party by compassionate Maura during a pedicure. I’ve seen and liked her in New Girl and Inside Amy Schumer but her comedic value has never been more evident. Not only does she hold her own against the likes of Amy Poehler and Bobby Moynahan, she is always the funniest part of every scene she’s in. In what I consider the funniest gag in the film, Lee teaches Poehler to properly pronounce her name (“hey- one”). Her simultaneously ernest and sarcastic delivery brings novelty to an arguably overused device that otherwise would have fallen flat.
Although this movie won’t be winning any awards for originality or plot, the consistency of the humor and the noteworthy cast talent worked to bring together an overall positive viewing experience. Sisters offers lots of jokes, some funny takes on old tropes, and an opportunity to see Poehler and Fey interact (which is always a treat). I’m glad I decided to see it, despite its > 60% Rotten Tomatoes score, and I’m glad I got to sit down with my sister for a few hours, if only to laugh together at tampons and flawed childhoods.