House party movies will never go away. From my generation’s Can’t Hardly Wait, to the millennials’ Project X, watching a house full of teens let loose their angst and indulge their hormones will always have an audience. What we rarely see is a reunion, as adults, throwing an equally epic house party. Old School hinted at the arrested development in certain adults, but seemed to excuse the behavior by tying their version of Animal House to an actual college. Now we have Sisters. The Tina Fey and Amy Poehler vehicle, and one of two films braving the same release as Star Wars: The Force Awakens (the other being the unnecessary Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip), shows two forty-something sisters attempting to recapture the fun of high school house parties one last time.
The plot of Sisters is straight forward. Katie (Fay) and Maura (Poehler) are two close but very different sisters. Katie is struggling to support her daughter as a moderately unemployed aesthetician, and Maura is a recently divorced nurse whose generally positive demeanor hides her lack of confidence. When their parents announce that they are selling their childhood home the women return for one last weekend to clean their pristinely preserved bedroom and say their goodbyes. As they are in the middle of drowning in nostalgia Maura realizes that she was always too responsible to really enjoy their house parties, and Katie proposes one last party.
Thankfully, filmmakers knew that the plot of Sisters is not the main source for entertainment in the film. Sure, the hilarity of watching middle aged folks get funky is funny, but it pales in comparison to the chemistry between Fey and Poehler. There are plenty of scenes where the plot not budging in any direction, but you honestly do not care because you are laughing so hard at these two actresses. Their familiarity and comedic timing is a well-honed machine at this point, and watching them riff off of one another is a treat.
The only shortcomings in Sisters are the parts where the film tries too hard. The subplots of Katie’s drama with her daughter and Maura’s crush on a neighbor are shoehorned around the scenes of the giant party. While I acknowledge the need for Sisters to have some sort of a heart or emotional center, these additions feel like they were decoupaged onto an already solid film, rather than naturally occurring within it. Also, when their party starts out as tame, the jokes at the expense of their now-lame high school buddies are a little obvious. Making fun of people in their forties for being in their forties is just not that interesting. The film and the raging party move away from these clichés quickly. It is much funnier and uplifting to watch these people all release the energy they’ve been burying for years than to tease them.
This giant band of friends who turn out for the biggest party of the year are superbly cast, and all act half their age (for better or worse). Rachel Dratch plays the depressed friend who spends the party drunkenly contemplating the passage of time. Samantha Bee the horny topless reveler. And even with John Leguizamo and John Cena in the mix, the scene stealers of the party are Maya Rudolph and Bobby Moynihan. The SNL and 30 Rock reunion at the party amps up the hilarity.
Sisters is such a funny movie, I honestly began to question if I was somehow mixing up my affection for Fey and Poehler with cinematic success. Or was it that I saw the film with my own sister? Or that I’m nearly at the same place in my life as these women are? Looking at the film as objectively as I can muster, Sisters is absolutely one of the funniest films of the year and there is an excellent non-Star Wars option at the theater this weekend.
Director: Jason Moore
Release Date: December 18, 2015
Film Length: 118 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures