Sisters **1/2

Tina Fey & Amy Poehler go R-rated in this funny but inconsistent comedy.

Is it worth $10? Yes

There are a few laugh-out-loud moments in “Sisters,” but there are notably more moments that earn little more than a chuckle. By the end the whole thing feels like you just gave two hours of courtesy laughs to a tour guide. Fans of the phenomenally talented Tina Fey and Amy Poehler may nonetheless find it enjoyable, if they see it at all: Universal picked the worst possible release date (against “Star Wars”!) of 2015 to unveil this limited-scope comedy, so box office prospects may best be realized on home video.

Poehler plays the Leslie Knope-ish Maura, a square do-gooder who puts others first and her own happiness second. Her complete opposite is her sister Kate (Fey), a party-girl turned single mom who can’t keep a job. For sisters who are so different they get along surprisingly well, which is good because we don’t want to see Fey and Poehler fight – they’re better when their chemistry clicks in unison, not discord.

Wisely, the script by Paula Pell (“Saturday Night Live”) gives them a common enemy: Their parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) are selling the Orlando home they grew up in, and the girls have returned to talk them out of it. They fail. With a house inspection looming, their old rooms to clean out, and the knowledge that Maura never had sex in the house, the girls decide to throw one last grand bash, just like they did years earlier. They invite friends from high school who still live in town, including sleazy Dave (John Leguizamo) and eager-to-please Alex (Bobby Moynihan), as well as a hottie neighbor named James (Ike Barinholtz) and, later on, a drug dealer named Pazuzu (John Cena). One person they don’t invite is frenemy Brinda (Maya Rudolph), who crashes the party anyway. 

The night starts simple enough – like a funeral wake, literally – then gets a bit naughty, but stops short of the crass raunchiness other comedies seem eager to showcase. It’s hard to tell if it would’ve helped or hurt the movie to be more extreme. Fey and Poehler are at their best with word play and cracking jokes rather than physical humor, which is why them shouting one-liners at James while he’s gardening, and other wise cracks, are the film’s highlights.

Other moments, however, feel forced. A dance routine to Snow’s “Informer” doesn’t seem genuine (the song was a hit for all of five minutes in 1992, and the lyrics are indecipherable), and a sequence in which James gets a toy stuck in an uncomfortable place is, well, uncomfortable. Director Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect”) seems obliged to be bawdy rather than allowing the story to play out organically, and that’s not how you get heartfelt laughs.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are two of the smartest comediennes working today, and one can’t help but wonder how much (if any) of their brilliance was lost in the fact that they didn’t write the script. “Sisters” should have marveled us with wit and creativity, but the jokes are a far more hit and miss than they should be. You’ll laugh, but not enough.

Did you know?
Fey plays the older sister; in real life she’s about 16 months older than Poehler.

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