Fey is introduced as a caricature, all push-up bra and heightened mannerisms, there is an early sequence in which she rolls around having a childish fit that is just plain excruciating to watch. You find yourself asking if this is this the same actress responsible for Liz Lemon’s sardonic retorts?
Poehler fares better in the early exchanges, as the subtler of the two she gets to play straight[ish] to Fey, but it’s when they’re together that the throw everything and see what sticks formula tends to grate. Lines fly back and forth, varying from weird, to tumbleweed, to downright hilarious, but they’re all there, when you get the feeling that an edit would have made the film tighter and the laughs more consistent.
But before you decide to swerve the sister act and watch the DVD of the superior Baby Mama, the film decides to establish a plot, albeit a well-worn comedy staple, and throw a house party.
The foundations of the story are built upon the siblings parents (James Brolin and the fantastically potty mouthed Diane Wiest) deciding to sell the family home. Maura (Poehler), being independently successful, is at ease with the decision, but there is a reluctance to tell the irresponsible, hard drinking, single-mom, Kate (Fey), for reasons which become obvious when she decides to throw the kind of debauched party that she was famous for back-in-the-day.
It’s when the party gets started that the film finds its feet, because although it’s similar in execution to Bad Neighbours, and there is a farcical set-piece unsuccessfully trying to recreate the wedding dress crudity of Bridesmaids, the charm of its lead actresses begins to really shine.
Poehler is the more endearing of the two, and gets to have a series of sweet flirtations with Ike Barinholtz’s handyman, during which the laughs and emotions feel genuine, and with Fey running around trying to manage the increasingly out-of-control party, echoes of Liz Lemon spring to mind. Undeniably, the two work well as a comedy duo, but untethered it spirals out-of-control, so when the script separates them, the depth of their characters improves.
In a year bereft of decent comedy, where Spy is the only movie to have struck a critical and commercial chord, the John Cena safe word, a penis on a wall, and any number of throwaway gags from the pen of Saturday Night Live mastermind Paula Pells, are enough to justify RSVPing to a film that starts intolerably, gets exponentially funnier, and by the finale, is quite touching.
Review by Matthew Rodgers