Actors: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, James Brolin
Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
Region: All Regions
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 15, 2016
Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018
The chemistry between these two “Saturday Night Live” alumni is undeniable, even if this is only the second feature they have starred in together. Often it is their ability to play off of each other so effortlessly which allows us to believe they are sisters, far more than the actresses’ ability to look like each other, and it is also what saves Sisters from an unfocused screenplay. If you ever thought that a “SNL” skit was funny until it repeated the same joke way past its welcome, you will have an idea of the type of approach Paula Pell takes in writing Sisters, with half of a lengthy 2-hour comedy centered on the joke that is middle-aged people partying like they are teenagers again.
It is clear that Pell wrote this screenplay with many of these actors already in mind, but just because they play to their strengths does not make the material any more believable. It somehow feels like a group of “SNL” characters were unleashed onto the real world, but there aren’t enough normal people to balance the absurdity of the quirks everyone in the cast has. At the center of the plot are the two title sisters played by Tina Fey (“30 Rock”) and Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”), complete with shoehorned character arcs. Maura (Poehler) is the responsible sister, in a role that feels like a less joyous extension of her “Parks and Recreation” character, whereas Fey’s Kate is an irresponsible sibling with a teenage daughter of her own (played by Madison Davenport) who is far more reliable.
When Kate and Maura’s parents (James Brolin, Dianne Wiest) suddenly sell their childhood home, the sisters decide to throw one last party before moving out their stuff. As infamous as their parties were in the past, Sisters forces the audience to endure the predictably contrived dullness of an adult party, mostly comprised of uncomfortable and uninteresting conversations. It isn’t until their lesbian friends begin to DJ and an unconventional drug dealer (played by John Cena with little more than random single-premise jokes) arrives to spice up the party that the movie starts to build energy. This is also when all intelligence is banished from the screenplay, replaced by sophomoric slapstick and raunchy dialogue instead.
There are some weak attempts at placing plot into the narrative during this extended party sequence. Maya Rudolph co-stars as a scorned former foe of Kate, desperate to be invited to one of the sisters’ infamous parties, despite putting on a front of pretentious maturity. Kate also must learn to be more responsible over the course of the party, a much more difficult and forced idea to convey than Maura’s attempt to loosen up with an attractive neighbor (Ike Barinholtz) she invites to the party. There are occasional moments of contrived character growth, peaking when Kate must conveniently use her former party skills to save her daughter from a sudden backyard sinkhole, though the natural tendency of Sisters is clearly irreverent silliness.
There is an assortment of supporting characters to make certain Sisters has no shortage of goofiness, though not nearly enough normal characters to play reactions off of the actions of caricatures. John Leguizamo is a former high school bad boy who is now just a sleazy middle-aged man with STDs. Rachel Dratch is a barely humanized version of her “Debbie Downer” persona, Samantha Bee and Matt Oberg are a couple that enjoys discreet sex in public, and Bobby Moynihan steals a number of scenes as the class clown who still can’t make anyone laugh. Sisters won’t even allow these characters to just exist, instead cramming most of them into convenient ‘happily-ever-after’ couples by the end credits.
In case the two-hour running-time is not enough, the Blu-ray also includes an unrated extended version which is about five minutes longer, not to mention an assortment of additional footage in the special features. There are deleted scenes, extended scenes, improved variations on lines, and even a gag reel to compete with the bloopers played over the end credits. There is also a commentary track with the two stars, Pell, and director Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect), not to mention the additional extras that are exclusive to the Blu-ray disc. These are far less substantial than the extra footage and commentary track, mostly comprised of unnecessary featurettes discussing various elements of the narrative. Only a single featurette about special effects has content that doesn’t just feel like promotional material. The Blu-ray combo pack also comes with a DVD and Digital HD copy of the film.
Entertainment Value: 7.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 4.5/10