A titan of industry is sent to prison after she's caught insider trading. When she emerges ready to rebrand herself as America's latest sweetheart, not everyone she screwed over is so quick to forgive and forget.
Sisters Kate and Maura Ellis are summoned home to clean out their childhood bedroom before their parents sell the family house, much to their dismay. Looking to recapture their glory days, they throw one final high-school-style party for their classmates, which turns into the cathartic rager that a bunch of ground-down adults really need.
It's the pairing of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler that's immensely appealing about "Sisters." There doesn't even really need to be a movie to support the co-stars, as the very idea of shenanigans hosted by two of the top comedians working today is enough to satisfy. However, there is a feature to go along with the billing, and "Sisters" is a modestly successful one, dedicated to showcasing various levels of silliness from Fey and Poehler, who were last seen together in 2007's "Baby Mama." While it ends up overstaying its welcome, perhaps mirroring the house party crisis at the center of the story, the film is entertaining, often content to sit back and let the actresses weave their special brand of absurdity.
Maura (Amy Poehler) is recently divorced, maintaining an uptight life of responsibility, which allows her parents, Bucky (James Brolin) and Deana (Dianne Wiest), to share the uncomfortable news that they're selling her childhood home. Kate (Tina Fey) is Maura's hotheaded, unemployed sibling, and she doesn't take word of the sale well, with the pair forced to clean out their rooms before inspection time with potential buyers. Revisiting their childhood, the sisters decide to throw one last party, inviting all their high school pals, while trying to exclude judgmental wet blanket Brinda (Maya Rudolph). Working with booze, lesbian DJs, and free rein of the house, the celebratory pair pushes the initially sedate gathering into craziness while also dealing with personal issues, including Kate's habitual irresponsibility and Maura's interest in friendly neighbor James (Ike Barinholtz).
"Sisters" is scripted by "Saturday Night Live" writer Paula Pell, who certainly isn't interested in a pushover sense of humor. The picture is a hard R-rated affair that's filled with drug-induced debauchery, foul language, and a degree of gross-out humor, trying its best to live up to the promise of its premise as Maura and Kate experience the best night of their lives. Mercifully, Pell isn't persistently aggressive, opening "Sisters" with necessary introductions that capture sibling personalities, finding Maura maintaining household order with her beloved dog, still unsteady from a divorce that disrupted her future plans. Kate is doing odd beautician jobs at home after being recently fired, with daughter Haley (Madison Davenport) giving up on her mother, taking off to a secret life. The need to reconnect with youth is handled nicely by Pell, who gets the sisters where they emotionally need to be in a hurry, maintaining a steady rhythm of motivations and silliness as Maura and Kate return to Orlando, Florida, ready to raise hell.
Chaos eventually erupts when the festivities begin, but "Sisters" is best when focused intensely on Maura and Kate's interplay, watching them deal with the reality of aging by clinging to childhood distractions as they revisit their adolescence. Their shared bedroom is a wellspring of nostalgia, and director Jason Moore ("Pitch Perfect") soaks up the strange atmosphere, highlighting play time between the sisters as they monkey around with toys and trinkets and revisit disparate sexual development misadventures through shared diary passages, identifying when their personalities diverged. It's terrifically funny stuff simply because it completely belongs to Fey and Poehler, who are a mighty team with sharp timing and a willingness to goof around when the moment requires a little comedic messiness. The plot eventually gets in the way, but when "Sisters" merely asks the stars to play, the humor is irresistible.
Once the party commences, "Sisters" loses steam, though it offers a hilarious view of fortysomethings dealing with their domesticity and advancing years, while the supporting cast includes Rachel Dratch, Bobby Moynihan, Kate McKinnon, and John Cena (playing a hulking drug dealer named Pazuzu), with everyone landing solid one-liners and communicating nervous breakdowns. But Pell is determined to maintain heart, focusing on Maura's tentative relationship with James and Kate's immaturity, which is challenged by her daughter. Dramatic interests and sweetness don't come naturally to the feature, and at nearly two hours in length, the effort could use another editorial pass. However, "Sisters" has pockets of hilarity, which saves it from becoming another formulaic drag, always more compelling when it permits Fey and Poehler to work their natural chemistry and explore escalating instability.
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