A Bible study group of 40- and 50-year-old adults gather in a cozy living room with hardwood floors, eyes glimmering with eagerness to immerse themselves in the Good Book. As the words of Genesis envelope the room, it is coated by the pungent scent of marijuana and a proclamation from one of the study group members: “Jesus didn’t hang out with the Pharisees. If somebody passed him a pipe, he wouldn’t say no.”
At that moment, the reading from Genesis reaches a line — Verse 1, Chapter 29: “And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed.'” Giggles fill the room.
Giggles fill the room.
This could be one of the countless funny scenes from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s latest comedy, Sisters, but it isn’t. It’s a regular night for the Stoner Jesus Bible Study group in Centennial, Colorado. (Really!) But get to the last blooper frame at the end of Sisters and you’ll realize how it fits in: The entire hilarious movie is predicated on this notion of age being a journey and not a prison, an idea those ganja-belching Bible readers clearly embrace. It’s a concept likely familiar to the audience, and certainly one that pervades a Generation X actively watching its once rebellious spirit turn middle-aged.
Sisters will make you feel as if you may spill over into the row below you with laughter.
In Sisters, Fey and Poehler play Kate and Maura Ellis, two sisters who plan to throw one last party in their childhood home before their parents sell it to unsavory buyers. The party is a byproduct of a prepubescent rebellious anger against their parents for covertly selling away their memories, and a chance for the two sisters to embrace a new side of themselves. Poehler’s Maura Ellis is a nurse so obsessed with being proper that she offered a construction worker sitting down some sunscreen and a trip to her bathroom because she thought he was homeless. On the other end of the spectrum, Fey’s Kate Ellis is the typical wild sister, an “independent contractor” — meaning a beautician who works out of her apartment — with a teenage daughter named Haley, played by Madison Davenport of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series‘, who would rather spend her summer with her boring aunt Maura to escape her mom’s dysfunction.
The sisters return to the suburbs of their childhood, coming in contact with walking embodiments of the erosive effects of time; hilarity follows as the duo try to shove age back into the vodka bottle. John Leguizamo plays Dave, a former schoolmate of the girls whose idea of catching up is proposing an “Ellis sisters sandwich.” Stay classy, Dave! The film also features Bobby Moynihan, a non-stop machine gun of unfunny puns, who turns into a raging lunatic after ingesting enough party favors to make Tony Montana proud. The supporting cast hold their own and actually keep up with the leading ladies.
The most engrossingly hilarious parts of Sisters will make you feel as if you may spill over into the row below you with laughter from Poehler and Fey’s unrelenting avalanche of quick, sharp jokes. Maura’s love interest is handyman James, played by Ike Barinholtz from The Mindy Project. Her mumbling collection of flirtatious tangents on his butt involves numerous comparisons delivered one after another at a feverish pace; Poehler finally decides that “your butt is serious like a drama. I can’t wait to binge on your butt when I’m home sick.” Another great moment: Fey’s character mimes slicing her throat, with subsequent arm thrusts to signal splattering blood, because her parents said they were getting a tabletop tree. Home for the holidays is not always a joyous time at the Ellis household.
It’s not all glow sticks and beer-pong smooth sailing for Sisters.
It’s not all glow sticks and beer-pong smooth sailing for Sisters, however. As in Trainwreck, Amy Schumer’s crude take on romantic comedies, Sisters uses romance solely to set up the comedy, meaning relationships are devoid of sincerity. Maura and Jeff’s courtship is likewise cute, but their banter only momentarily resembles actual feelings in love scenes thwarted (weirdly) by sheetrock and marijuana smoke. Like the relationship between Amy Schumer and Bill Hader in Trainwreck, Jeff exists in Sisters only to draw out the wild character from Maura’s normal tepid persona. This doesn’t deter much from the movie’s enjoyment, but a few of the scenes stunted the comedic momentum.
According to 2008 data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 55,000 local police officers were women. Yet it took another five years for Sandra Bullock and Jenny McCarthy to star in The Heat, the first buddy cop film with two female lead actresses as the cops. Sisters works best because it is a self-contained, self-aware comedic hurricane that may show signs of the culture it consumes but never compromises form because of it. The film doesn’t implant Poehler and Fey’s 40-plus characters into a Broad City environment of inconsequential debauchery, in the form of stress over “pegging” a lover and finding a lost remote through “medicinal” means. Sisters is “a little less Forever 21 and a little more suddenly 42” as Maura astutely points out.
In a year when most of the TV shows nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Series are anchored by strong female leads, Sisters is a victory lap featuring two of the funniest comedic minds of all time. It’s our good fortune that they can turn friendship into gold.