On-screen double acts rarely come as talented and gifted as the effervescent Amy Poehler and Tina Fey - America’s favourite and best-loved comediennes. Poehler is a particular favourite of mine, possessing a proclivity for rich, diverse characters, from Parks and Recreations’ hard-working and optimistic Leslie Knope to Disney Pixar’s exultant Joy in the fantastic Inside Out. Heck, she’s even a scene-stealer as Regina George’s ‘Cool Mum’ in Mean Girls. Her spritely relationship and bubbling chemistry with Tina Fey (30 Rock, Saturday Night Live) is so celebrated in Sisters, and that dynamic really is the films true apotheosis.
Maura (Poehler) and Kate Ellis (Fey) decide to throw one last party in their childhood home, following their disgust in realising that their parents are selling it on without their involvement. With Maura always being the more sensible of the two, she agrees with Kate to 'let her freak flag fly' and reverse their roles to allow her one night of fun and pleasure. However, when they get into the swing of things - reuniting with their friends who are suddenly thirty years older - it only goes from bad, to worse, to even worse.
You've probably picked up by now, but Poehler and Fey really make this film. It's a dynamic previously explored in film, although few manage it quite as well as these two talents, utilising their chemistry made through previous projects - the Golden Globes, Baby Mama and Saturday Night Live - and run with it, doing cartwheels, flips and the sorts in the meantime. The two roles are perfectly contrasting but manage to bring the best out in each other, shining in what is already a vivacious and lively film. The supporting cast is packed with a plethora of talent but none who come close to its perfectly animated leads.
Whilst the two leads elevate the funny screenplay material, you can't help but think that an even sharper and wittier outcome would have arrived if they also took to writing it and moulding their own material further. As seen in the during-credits gag reel, improvisation helped shape some of the laughs in classic Poehler/Fey style, but more would have been lovely to see. Yes, the laughs come thick and fast, with the majority of them sticking the landing, but some do fail to do so. Maybe it's American humour not working on a British audience. You don't have too much time to dwell on the less successful moments though, as another funnier and slicker one comes flying out (usually from Poehler or Fey, of course). The vulgarity is pushed to the limits and some jokes feel a little out-dated, but thanks to delivery, still manage a chuckle. It wouldn't be nearly as successful if it wasn't thanks to Amy and Tina.
The premise and coming-of-age element is a formulaic tale, thankful injected with new life as the titular Sisters. A balance of uproarious charm and poignant weight result in an immensely enjoyable film, even if the film needs the double act more than the double act need the film. It's evidence of excellent counter-programming to that film with the lightsabers, and everyone can find a laugh in one of the year's strongest comedies - I just hope it doesn't get too lost in the madness of the cinema this weekend.
Summary: Sisters is elevated by Poehler and Fey's incredible and effervescent chemistry that makes a good film an excellent comedy. With a dynamic this strong, you'd be surprised to learn that they're not actually sisters!
Highlights: Maura's manicure scene is one of the funniest sequences and exchanges I have ever seen, highlighting once again Poehler's hilarious timing and delivery. You find yourself laughing the more it goes on and by the time the gag reel finishes, you'll want to watch it all over again.