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Sisters reviews: What did the critics say?

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Sisters is what you might call counter programming at the movies this weekend. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will undoubtedly be the dominating feature at your local multiplex, with fans — possibly dressed up as they favorite intergalactic character — lined up around the block. But Sisters features two of everybody’s favorite ladies — Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — starring in a R-rated Bridesmaids-type comedy that might appeal to those of us who don’t care if Han Solo shot first.

Fey and Poehler aren’t just funny ladies. As they’ve proven as repeat hosts of the Golden Globes Awards, they might be the most winning comedy duo since Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. In their latest movie, they play a pair of mismatched sisters who mourn-slash-celebrate the sale of their childhood home by having one last only-in-the-movies bash that might threaten the house’s very foundation. Both actresses play against type, though Fey steps further out of her comfort zone. She plays the profane younger sister, Kate, a single mom who’s lived her life from moment to moment, never looking too far ahead. Poehler is Maura, a divorced nurse whose chipper outlook and do-good mentality masks feelings of regret. Ike Barinholtz plays the neighborhood guy who might be able to help Maura finally cut loose, and Maya Rudolph is a former high school rival who still has a little Mean Girl in her.

Directed by Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) and penned by longtime Saturday Night Live screenwriter Paula Pell, Sisters is a party movie in the way that Bachelor Party and Old School are party movies. The bar for such cinematic outrageousness has only been raised over the years, and Sisters aims high, with a bacchanal that will be every bit as uproarious as one of the boys’.  “What’s lacking in the concept is mostly made up for, though, by the loony chemistry of its leads, two comedic life partners whose onscreen bond feels as familiar and close as actual sisters,” writes EW’s Leah Greenblatt, in her B review.

For more of EW’s review, and a roundup of reviews from around the country, scroll below.

Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly)

“The jokes fly so hard and fast that less successful lines barely get a chance go bust before the next one comes along. And a few standout scenes — Maura and Kate trying on party dresses at a dangerously spandex-y boutique, Maura’s surreal encounter with a manicurist — are pretty much worth the price of sitting through all the slapstick and butt gags.”

Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)

Sisters is the kind of broad feelgood comedy that’s made to look easy by Poehler and Fey, who breeze through the funny test and the Bechdel test and show that the female-female dynamic, so recently considered almost gravitationally impossible in comedy, works very well. Fey and Poehler get laughs with the smart, incorrect dialogue, their timing, the easy swing of their relationship, their ingrained song’n’dance relish for the material.”

Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times)

“It’s with no small reluctance I report Sisters is a depressing, overlong, repetitive slapstick disaster in which two of the most appealing stars around wallow in the muck AND the mire, figuratively and literally. Given the screenplay is by longtime Saturday Night Live scribe Paula Pell and the director is Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect), it’s genuinely surprising that Sisters reaches for such low-hanging fruit.”

A.O. Scott (New York Times)

“The party movie is a venerable genre. So is the movie-as-party, which is a slightly different creature. Sisters is a hybrid of the two, and also, therefore, a fairly standard specimen of modern post-Hangover commercial film comedy. It falls into the same category as Neighbors or The Night Before, which is to say it’s uneven, generally enjoyable, self-consciously naughty and also, despite drug use and jokes about anal sex, more concerned with reassurance than transgression.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)

“There’s something about Poehler and Fey here, something about their interaction with each other and with the audience, that’s more than a little irritating. It’s possible that the thing that’s off-putting is simply that they’re in a terrible movie — they might even know it. But their playing here has a whiff of ‘Here we are, we’re so hilarious, and of course you love it. Here we are, together again, and isn’t it great?'” 

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)

“It takes superior artistry to take the rude, crude and socially unmentionable and make it feel upliftingly wholesome. Such is the magic of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the dynamic duo at the playful, prurient, occasionally perverse heart of Sisters. … The women who for years have given the Golden Globes ceremony its zing … spin an otherwise slender premise into antic, quippily lighthearted comic gold.”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe)

Sisters is a reminder that we generally love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for everything except their movies. A sloppy, raunchy, underwritten, poorly assembled mishmash of sentiment and gross-out gags strung along an insultingly thin premise, the comedy still has a few moments that can make you laugh hard enough to shoot soda out your nose.”

Guy Lodge (Variety)

“For Poehler, in particular, the pic reps an exciting test of her movie-headliner capability as she pursues pastures beyond Parks and Recreation. Irrespective of ultimate B.O. totals, it’s one she aces on screen, gamely carrying an arc that also extends her romantic-comedy credentials past the self-aware irony of last year’s They Came Together.”

Frank Scheck (Hollywood Reporter)

“Reminiscent of such Judd Apatow-produced comedies as Bridesmaids, Sisters serves up relentless vulgarity, with Fey dropping more F-bombs in two hours than in her entire career to date. Playing against type, she’s clearly enjoying flaunting her sexier side and is often very funny in the process. Poehler, only slightly harder-edged here than as the perpetually optimistic Leslie Knope, is equally good, and the relaxed chemistry and affection between the performers is palpable.”

Mark Olsen (Los Angeles Times)

“Fey and Poehler have put themselves in a position where more is expected from them, and to see them deliver less feels that much more of a let-down. A moderately entertaining, passably amusing comedy, Sisters isn’t bad enough to inspire anger, just disappointment.”

Kimberley Jones (Austin Chronicle)

Sisters has a patchily funny first act but unleashes pure comedic chaos once the party gets started … What enriches these outlandish set-pieces is the specific and existential dread at their core: the feeling of being disconnected from the essential self, the fear that one’s best times are already past. That doesn’t make Sisters a downer. In point of fact, it’s an absolute joy watching these grownups party like there’s no tomorrow.”

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 58

Rotten Tomatoes: 63 percent

Rated: R

Length: 118 minutes

Starring Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz

Directed by Jason Moore

Distributor: Universal