If a film’s end credits show outtakes of actors blowing lines or cracking up on the set then invariably that’s a movie where even its makers thought the good takes weren’t quite as funny as the bad ones. Unfortunately, this does require a friend to brave opening weekend to report back.
The other one you can see coming though: If a movie draws much of its cast and crew from “Saturday Night Live,” you might stay home and, well, watch “SNL.”
What makes good sketch comedy on TV doesn’t necessarily translate to the big screen. Yet all these “SNL” pals will convince one another what’s happening in front of the movie camera is absolutely hilarious. Months later audiences will then stare in stupefaction at the brainless if not puerile antics on screen.
“Sisters” is a double whammy: It’s a mostly “SNL” generated comedy filled with outtakes at the end. Of course, you would have to get through the entire banal, Judd Apatow-wannabe comedy to watch those outtakes.
From the movie’s very first gags you know you’re in bad hands. What makes you wonder, however, is that everyone in front of and behind the camera has serious bonafides in the comedy arena.
Stars Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler, the Golden Globes emcee duo, have known one another going back two decades to their time together at the famed Chicago troupes ImprovOlympic and Second City. These “SNL” alums evidently decided to reteam for an R-rated comedy out of the Apatow School to shake off reputations earned from “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation.”
Why is it that some actors or comics can indulge in potty-mouth, sexually and socially dubious raunch and get away with it — you know, like Seth Rogen and Amy Schumer — while others simply make you cringe?
I don’t have an exact answer but perhaps when you’ve established your credentials with sophisticated comedy and sly wit, why stoop to lowest-common-denominator material?
As a theatrical counter offensive against “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Sisters” may attract audiences determined to resist the Force for at least a weekend. And there are enough okay gags and funny one-liners to wring laughs out of even Scrooge.
Written by veteran “SNL” writer Paula Pell and directed by “Pitch Perfect’s” Jason Moore, this “Sisters” act pairs two mid-40s siblings with disparate personalities in a scatter-shot, slapstick comedy that sees them throw a party as if they were still in high school.
Literally the parents (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) are away — actually they’ve sold the family house in Orlando, Florida, and escrow closes the follow Monday — so the girls connect with old school chums to party like it’s 1988.
Poehler’s Maura has always played the “house mom” at such parties, being so intent on making sure no one goes overboard and gets hurt, that she never had any fun herself. Fey’s Kate, on the other hand, has known few stable, responsible or sober moments in her life. Even her daughter (Madison Davenport) stays as far away as she can.
The house-destroying party goes back at least to “Animal House” and nothing Pell comes up with, aided and abetted by comedy vets John Leguizamo, Rachel Dratch, Bobby Moynihan, Kate McKinnon, Samantha Bee and Matt Oberg, updates it in the slightest. You get the distinct feeling whenever Pell lacked a punch line she settled for a punch to the ceiling or drywall instead.
Tellingly, performers in minor jokey roles steal the show. Specifically John Cena, who provided dumb male beefcake in Schumer’s “Trainwreck,” is a crack-up as a multi-tattooed, dead-serious drug dealer who has seen it all until this particular house party, and Greta Lee as a Korean manicurist, who lets her freak flag fly, are hilarious.
You keep wishing they’d go next door though and start a new and better movie. Others you might want to see in that movie are Maya Rudolph, who is quite good as the girl Fey’s character hated in high school, and Ike Barinholtz, as the neighborhood guy Poehler wants to lure into bed but not before she has let her hair down.
Clearly, Fey is thinking it’s now or never to display her sexy, dissipated, raunchy side in a comedy while Poehler is edging only slightly away from the cheerful optimism of her Leslie Knope. So it’s the old playing-against-type game but I’m unsure how many moviegoers are going to buy into it.
Opens: December 18, 2015 (Universal Pictures)
Production companies: Little Stranger, Everyman Pictures
Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, James Brolin, John Cena, John Leguizamo, Dianne Wiest, Greta Lee, Bobby Moynihan, Madison Davenport
Director: Jason Moore
Screenwriter: Paula Pell
Producers: Tina Fey, Jay Roach, John Lyons
Executive producers: Amy Poehler, Jeff Richmond, Brian Bell
Director of photography: Barry Peterson
Production designer: Richard Hoover
Music: Christophe Beck
Costume designer: Susan Lyall
Editor: Lee Haxall
R rating, 118 minutes