Fey-Poehler chem­istry wasted in weak com­edy

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - MOVIES - By Michael Phillips

The weirdly dispir­it­ing “Sis­ters” has enough trou­bles of its own with­out be­ing pit­ted against the Force. As of Dec. 16, the com­ment last posted on the “Sis­ters” mes­sage board at imdb.com car­ried the head­line “Star Wars comes out on Fri­day yayyy,” and the one be­low it pre­dicted that “The Force Awak­ens” will “turn this thing into a gi­ant flop.” Don’t space trolls have any­thing bet­ter to do?

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler may prove th­ese guys wrong (and they’re guys, all right). Both women are amaz­ing, mul­ti­di­rec­tional comic tal­ents, show­cased in­deli­bly by “Satur­day Night Live,” re­cently com­ing off the classy ob­ser­va­tional grooves of “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recre­ation,” re­spec­tively. Their co-host­ing of the 2015 Golden Globes was fun­nier than ev­ery sin­gle com­edy nom­i­nated. They can write, pro­duce, per­form and de­velop tal­ent; “Sis­ters” was writ­ten by their “SNL” alum Paula Pell.

Seven years ago Fey and Poehler teamed for the fea­ture film “Baby Mama,” which found an au­di­ence even though it was for­mu­laic and not much. Alas, “Sis­ters” is far worse, and less. While offering two gi­ant tal­ents a chance to cut loose with broader, rougher ma­te­rial than usual, at least for them, the jokes are cheap, the tech­nique’s pushy and you end up wait­ing pa­tiently for the end-credit bloop­ers.

In At­lanta, re­cently di­vorced nurse Maura (Poehler) is the younger sib­ling of un­em­ployed beau­ti­cian Kate (Fey), who has a teenage daugh­ter (Madi­son Daven­port) mys­te­ri­ously hard to track down lately. Kate de­cides MPAA rat­ing: R (for crude sex­ual con­tent and lan­guage, and for drug use)

Run­ning time: 1:58

Opens: Thurs­day evening to move with her daugh­ter back to the fam­ily home in Or­lando, Fla., where mom (Dianne Wi­est) and dad (James Brolin) live. But the folks have sold the place with­out con­sult­ing their daugh­ters, and “Sis­ters” takes it from there, with the ini­tially sulky, then venge­ful sib­lings — up­tight Maura and hard-par­ty­ing Kate — throw­ing a mas­sively de­struc­tive house party, bring­ing back mem­o­ries and high school faces from the old days.

Maya Ru­dolph, thank God, plays the chief foil, but with ev­ery­one go­ing over the top, the movie ex­hausts its per­form­ers as well as the au­di­ence. Ike Barinholtz plays Poehler’s handy­man love in­ter­est, and he and Poehler keep it real, or real-esque, at least un­til the next bout of clum­sily staged slap­stick. (High/low point: a mu­sicbox-up-the-bum bit that evinces winces, not laughs.) Maybe I wasn’t in the mood. But it’s hard to watch so many shrewd comic tal­ents strug­gle against the tide, in harsh close-up, which so rarely works in low com­edy. Di­rec­tor Ja­son Moore (“Pitch Per­fect”) clob­bers each scene with fran­tic re­ac­tion shots ( what did I just see?), and when the pathos come, they come in truck­loads enough to fill a Florida sink­hole.

The movie re­calls junkers such as “Due Date” and “Iden­tity Thief,” stu­dio come­dies work­ing on pure fumes and au­di­ence good­will to­ward the mar­quee tal­ent. It’s not fair to turn one mis­fire into a gen­der stud­ies ar­gu­ment, es­pe­cially in a year that gave us the guy­cen­tric fail­ures “Get Hard” and “The Ridicu­lous 6.” But com­pared with so many var­ied and skill­ful fe­male-driven hits such as “Brides­maids” or this sum­mer’s “Train­wreck” and “Spy,” “Sis­ters” isn’t worth talk­ing about. Michael Phillips is a Tri­bune News­pa­pers critic.

K. C. BAI­LEY/UNIVER­SAL PIC­TURES

For­mer “Satur­day Night Live” stars Amy Poehler, left, and Tina Fey in “Sis­ters,” writ­ten by “SNL” alum Paula Pell.

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