The most enthusiasm I can muster for Jason Moore’s Sisters is, “It’s pretty OK!” — which feels apropos but probably isn’t a phrase that’s ending up on the cover of the DVD. Everything, right down to the dull title (go search IMDb sometime for just how many features and shorts have been called Sisters), screams forgettable. That it even works at all is because of its leads, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey and their innate likability — even when the film tends to veer toward comedy’s less appealing tendencies of half-hearted raunchiness and a vague, uneasy grotesqueness aimed at the poor and minorities. But saying this, Sisters only rarely feels mean-spirited, and it abides by the formula of throwing enough jokes out there that something’s bound to work once in awhile. It’s not the best approach, but it’s one that mostly sustains itself despite a languid, overlong running time.
Thinking about it now, it’s actually astonishing that Sisters is even tolerable. Again, this is a testament to Poehler and Fey, who take two fairly unlikable characters and make them at best relatable and at worst watchable. The two play Maura and Kate, respectively, two sisters with different dispositions (Maura being a prude; Kate irresponsible and reckless) who find out their childhood home has been sold and decide to throw one last giant party to bid the place adieu. That both of these women are in their 40s and can’t get over the loss of their rather boring suburban Orlando home is pretty obnoxious to begin with. That they’re both dreary screw-ups in their own ways — specifically Kate, who has a daughter (Madison Davenport, Noah) who won’t talk to her — doesn’t lend itself to these being specifically sympathetic characters. And, on top of all of this, the film falls too much into the trap of improv, riffing and randomness when it comes to its comedic style. There’s the undertone of something Will Ferrell here. Luckily, Poehler and Fey are not Ferrell, and Sisters never becomes a vehicle for the two to mug for the camera.
The rest of the plot — like the actual party and all of the theoretical growth and growing up Maura and Kate have to do as a result — isn’t much better. It’s all predictable and unrealistic, but there seems to be an amount of foresight and craft put inside the nuts and bolts of the script. On the other hand, however, director Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) takes forever to get to all the heartwarming lessons everyone’s supposed to be learning. For everything Sisters gets right — like the handful of actually funny jokes — there are about three things the film gets wrong. And they’re all amateur mistakes, like being about 20 minutes too long or being wrongheadedly mean, and then trying to turn all this into a sentimental story about growing or being responsible. This never keeps the movie from being watchable, but that’s about as much praise as can be heaped onto Sisters. Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use.