I'm a Dude and I'm Down with 'Sisters'
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler show how crossover comedy is done.
Sisters presents a great set-up to showcase the collective talent and chemistry of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. It's not a very smart movie, but its stars are, and that's enough if you have a sense of humor of any kind. Sisters is the latest in a line of SNL-groomed, female-driven, R-rated comedies - the kind that appeal to guys as well as girls: the crossover comedy.
What makes Sisters worthy, and part of the Step-Brothers, MacGruber, Bridesmaids club (as opposed to the It's Pat, Deuce Bigalow club), is its devotion to consistent silliness. Fey and Poehler are non-stop. I can't say all their jokes land, some you've definitely heard before, but there's some stuff in here that no one can deny. They're one of the best comedic duos ever, and Sisters has an air of comedic credibility because of that. These two are in their prime and you can feel it.
In a reversal from their other film together, Baby Mama, Fey plays the irresponsible sister, Kate Ellis. And Poehler plays Maura, the schedule-checking nurse. They don't hang out, but their parents (Diane Wiest, James Brolin) are selling their beloved childhood home so the kids reunite in Orlando.
To recapture some of their past glory at the old party house, dubbed "Ellis Island," Kate and Maura plan a blowout party and invite a cast of characters (played by the likes of Ike Barinholtz, Greta Lee, Bobby Moynihan, Rachel Dratch, John Leguizamo, and a face-tattooed John Cena) from their past to party with them. The roles are reversed again when Maura wants to let loose for once and Tina gets a taste of sobriety, a new experience.
Kate and Maura have their eyes opened when all the party kids from high school turn out to be lame 40-year-olds. Two even bring their kid! We can see it coming a mile away from the audience, but that's part of getting old. You don't feel old while it's happening. It just happens. SNL alum and screenwriter Paula Pell's script taps into that bit of truth easily without laying it on with syrup like, say, Sandler does. And she can thank Fey and Poehler for their effortless performances. They make it look easy.
There's more to Sisters than what my mother would call "nasty humor," but not much, thankfully. Death to melodrama! The movie is a series of Fey/Poehler improv showcases, some borderline racist and hilarious, some borderline sexist and hilarious. One scene watches Barinholtz's sexy new neighbor guy, James, squirm as Kate and Maura barrage him with awkward advances. What a way for ladies to behave! The more role reversals like this we see in Hollywood comedies, the better. Fey and Poehler are part of an increasingly expanding group of funny women (the Silvermans, Wiigs, and Schumers) who make conservatives squirm in their seats. It's not just guys who think sex jokes are funny. And the result is movies like Sisters have crossover appeal.
The ladies are also starting to overshadow the dudes (the Ferrells, Stillers, and Galifianakisesesss) in a big way. This year, female-driven comedies like Pitch Perfect 2, Spy, and Trainwreck out-grossed the male comedies (Get Hard, Ted 2, and Pixels). It's not a competition, but that never happens. And it's always been because there were no female-driven comedies to begin with... not this many at any rate. Fey and Pohler are leading that sea change. Sisters may seem like a stupid little comedy to some, but this is the type of movie teens will cherish. They'll watch it 50 times on Netflix, smoking weed with their friends, guys and girls, and they'll quote it for years to come. It's important two women are at the center of it.