Poehler And Fey Vehicle "Sisters" Is Where Laughter Goes To Die

Comediennes Amy Poehler and Tina Fey have built up enough goodwill with their hugely successful, now defunct NBC sitcoms (“Parks And Recreation” and “30 Rock,” respectively) that they’ll survive “Sisters.” Probably.

The film sets so much of said goodwill on fire and punts it into the abyss that the duo might as well disown it now; chalk it up as an excuse to hang out with each other for a month and shoot a script written by a friend (longtime “Saturday Night Live” writer Paula Pell).

Or maybe Poehler and Fey wanted their own “Bridesmaids” or “Trainwreck;” a great female-led, big screen comedy on which to hang their hats.

Either way, they’ve landed zip codes away from any discernible target, spearheading a thunderously unfunny R-rated romp that, with any luck, will be long forgotten by the time it leaves theaters. (It shouldn’t be long.)

Poehler and Fey play – you guessed it – sisters undergoing mid-life crises, albeit very different ones. Maura Ellis (Poehler) is the “square” and Kate (Fey) the “wild child;” the former divorced and childless, the latter a single mom. Their frayed lives unwind entirely when their parents (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) inform the pair that their childhood home has been sold and that they have a week to clean out their rooms. Maura and Kate decide that the only reasonable reaction is to hold one last blowout party; like they used to in the old days.

This is not an especially good set-up, but it’s an even worse premise. The duo’s party comprises more than half of the pictures interminable two-hour running time, stumbling aimlessly from gross-out gag to gross-out gag, with Maura trying to get laid by hot-but-accessible neighbor guy (Ike Barinholtz) and Kate fighting with her childhood nemesis (Maya Rudolph).

The screenplay is a desperate grab bag of stereotypes and sex humor, bottoming out with a drug-fueled turn from current “Saturday Night Live” cast member Bobby Moynihan. He’s not just the most annoying thing in the movie; he’s the most annoying thing in any movie this year, a CliffsNotes of the devolution of SNL talent.

The domestic shenanigans at hand recall 2014 comedy “Neighbors,” an infinitely funnier, better movie in which a non-comedian (Rose Byrne) did what Poehler and Fey are presumably trying to do here: show warmth and depth and be hilarious at the same time. If the duo’s participation was merely a bone thrown to their friend Pell (it’s her first screenplay), it’s understandable, but it doesn’t make the end result any less of a catastrophe.

“Sisters” impossibly comes off like it was conceived, written, and shot in less time than it plays, a reminder that even amidst a golden age of female-driven comedies we’re not insusceptible to stinkers.

It might even be the worst SNL-derived film of 2015; an incredible feat in a year that gave us both “Get Hard” and “Pixels.” Avoid.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★ out of ★★★★★ (Very Bad)

Release Date: December 18, 2015
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: Jason Moore
Screenwriter: Paula Pell
Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, John Leguizamo, Dianne Wiest, James Brolin, John Cena
MPAA Rating: R (for crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use)