Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tina Fey, Amy Poehler get lewd

A little more wit would have been welcome, but there are enough laughs to keep Sisters humming.

When a couple of guys make a movie that spends most of its running time chasing lewd laughs, we're almost never surprised. In fact, we more or less expect that comic actors such as the overexposed Seth Rogen will find new ways to push the envelope of propriety.

But women?

That's another story, even after movies such as Bridesmaids, which added a bit of raunch to the female comedy mix.

In what amounts to a small but revolutionary step, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have not only pushed the envelope, they've tried to rip it to shreds with Sisters, a comedy about two siblings who wind up throwing a wildly uninhibited house party that gives the movie its comic crescendo.

As far as plot, that's pretty much all there is.

The party happens during a visit the Atlanta-based sisters make to their parents (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin), who still live in Florida, where the sisters grew up.

Once in Florida, the sisters begin to revert to their adolescence. In the case of these two, it's a relatively short trip.

The party is supposed to undermine a deal the parents have made to sell the family home to a young, upwardly mobile couple. Despite the fact that they haven't lived there for a long time, the sisters refuse to let go of the house in which they grew up.

As you might expect, the folks at the party have too good a time, so much so that the house is wrecked. Don't consider that a spoiler; it's not just that the house is wrecked, it's how and who does the wrecking that leads to the movie's laughs.

Sisters was written by SNL's Paula Pell. Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) handles the directing chores, but the whole business is inconceivable without Fey and Poehler -- and even they can't make every joke work. Sisters is a bumpy affair.

Mild attempts at characterization are made: Fey's Kate is a mom with a disapproving teen-age daughter (Madison Davenport) and not much talent for hairdressing, which is unfortunate because that's how she tries to earn a living.

Poehler's Maura is a do-gooder who can't pass a homeless person without offering help. To the extent that Maura has a character arc, it involves dropping her reserve and emerging as a hard partying demon.

Maya Randolph has a nice turn as a former high school classmate of the sisters who feels superior to them. John Leguizamo plays a former high school chum who seems happy despite the fact that his life has gone nowhere. John Cena portrays a heavily muscled drug dealer, and Ike Barinholtz appear as a handyman who arouses Maura's not so latent desires. As a nerdy partygoer, Bobby Moynihan starts at a high pitch and becomes even more manic.

I have to confess that it took me a while to adjust to the low level of humor Fey and Poehler have adopted in their third joint outing after Mean Girls and Baby Mama.

But these are two funny women, who are so heartily committed to this comedy, you might as well surrender -- at least until something a little smarter comes along.

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