They’re the funniest comic duo since Lemmon and Matthau.
Who cares if their best work was co-hosting awards shows? Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, ex-“Saturday Night Live” bandmates, funny women so utterly in sync as to be matching halves of “slap” and “stick,” simply click. Even when they’re out of character.
As they are in “Sisters,” a 40somethings-party-like-they-did-when-they-were-teens romp that casts each “sister” against type. The always-wacky Poehler is the lonely “responsible one,” the smart-downtrodden Fey tries her hand at ditzy party animal.
They make each of their creations real women with real issues and needs and a wild streak. Whatever the demands of the script (by SNL vet Paula Pell), they never become caricatures in this “Project X/Superbad/House Party” for the not-quite-menopausal.
Maura (Poehler) is a nurse, a do-gooder, all about helping and about self-help. The self-help? That’s because she’s divorced — two years and counting.
Kate (Fey) is the hellion. We can tell by the leopard print apron she uses as she applies toxic dye to a hair cut customer (Chris Parnell) whose brows she is tinting at home because she’s been fired. Again. From another salon. She’s one of those single-moms whose teen daughter (Madison Davenport) has to be “the grown-up.” Haley knows Mom’s anger-management/impulse control issues. Which sends her on vacations without Mom, without bothering to tell her where she’s going.
No wonder Maura is the one their parents (Dianne Wiest, James Brolin) trust with the news that they’re selling the family’s home — in Orlando.
Kate does not take it well. The tantrum includes some serious shots at the designer-couple who are closing on the house and cannot wait to redecorate.
“You know your cousin’s gay?”
“That’s not my cousin. That’s my husband.”
The Ellis sisters resolve — at Kate’s insistence — to throw one last “Ellis Island” party, like the ones they tossed in high school. Maybe Maura can make some time with the hunk (Ike Barinholtz) who has moved in down the street. Kate, however, has to be “the party mom” though, the one who doesn’t drink.
“I hate it when you make me the bummer.”
And they’re off — rounding up booze, decorating, sending e-vites to their old classmates, shunning those they always shunned.
Here’s where this movie’s “Saturday Night Live” content pays off. Maya Rudolph absolutely kills as the resentful shrew the sisters hated in high school.
“She looks like a fart that’s coming out sideways.”
Bobby Moynihan plays the dopey classmate who was sure he’d become a stand-up comic. Rachel Dratch has another Rachel Dratch role.
Even though there’s a drug dealer (John Cena, hysterical at underplaying) and some midlife crisis sex, this is never much darker than “Hangover Lite.” There’s little of the bitter bite of “Bridesmaids,” though a hint of “last stab at playing promiscuous party girls” ripples from the script to the actresses playing the leads.
How to dress? “A little less Forever 21, and a little more Suddenly 42.”
But the pleasure here is in catching our comic twosome in all their unfiltered Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time glory. Check out the two minutes or so set aside for Poehler and deadpan Greta Lee, as a Korean manicurist, to work out how to pronounce the nail-dresser’s name.
And for once, we get to see the Fabulous Fey and the Peerless Poehler, cast as equals and delivering the comic goods without having to give OTHER people Golden Globes in the process.
MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use
Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Dianne Wiest, James Brolin, John Leguizamo, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena
Credits: Directed by Jason Moore, script by Paula Pell. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:58