Who knew John Cena would be the superstar comedy cameo of 2015?
The WWE champ killed it as the sometime-boyfriend of Amy Schumer's character in this summer's blockbuster Trainwreck, making the most of his short scene, including raucous sex.
Cena is similarly a delight in Sisters - I'll keep his pitch-perfect role to myself - starring Amy Poehler and hometown girl Tina Fey as the titular siblings who decide to throw one last party before their parents sell their childhood home.
It would seem like Sisters is a dud, opening against some film set in a galaxy far, far away, but don't blame the movie-scheduling system. Or the trailers that did Sisters no favors. It's a sweet, funny comedy starring two of the best and brightest in the game.
Maura (Poehler) is the staid, boring sister who played the role of Party Mom at her older sib Kate's (Tina Fey) epic high school ragers. While Maura is a recently divorced, stable nurse, Kate is a screw-up cosmetologist with a daughter (Madison Davenport) who wishes her mother would just grow up.
When Kate and Maura's parents (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin, also the matriarch and patriarch on CBS' Life in Pieces) decide to sell their Orlando home in favor of a condo, the sisters throw a party for all their high school friends, who now are boring and have children. Except this time, Kate has to play Party Mom so Maura can let loose with studly neighbor James (The Mindy Project's Ike Barinholtz, better served as a romantic lead than he ever was as a wacky side character on the Fox-turned-Hulu sitcom).
Written by Saturday Night Live vet Paula Pell (who has a cameo as Kate's PO'd roommate), Sisters doesn't feel like an extended skit, as a lot of SNL alumni movies do. Sisters sags in the middle, when too many familiar faces from SNLs past and present are shoved into the ensemble (although Bobby Moynihan and an underused Kate McKinnon are great). But Pell, Poehler, and Fey infuse the movie with more heart than that.
Part of the joy of Sisters is that it looks as though it was huge fun to make. Poehler and Fey have proved their incredible chemistry, both in the underrated, Philadelphia-set Baby Mama, and as Golden Globes hosts. But therein lies the rub. Fey has branded herself as a no-nonsense killjoy (see Liz Lemon), while Poehler tends to play wackier characters (even her uptight Leslie Knope could go ham sometimes). Fey feels entirely miscast as selfish hothead Kate.
The movie is perhaps not as funny as watching the dynamic duo riff on the Globes' dais, but it's wonderful to watch them interact, as when they bust some sweet dance moves to early '90s rap jam "Informer."
What really makes Sisters, though, is that Kate and Maura are never portrayed as pathetic. They may be trying to recapture a magic that no longer exists after the drunk-on-life age of 17. But they are never losers, and we don't pity them. They have a loving relationship, even though they are so different. Both have their own foibles and issues, and both have trouble letting go of their childhood home, in part because neither thinks she has a home anymore.
Kate is essentially homeless, while Maura has lost her marriage. They cling to the past in tangible form, a house, because it's easy and comfortable. It's hard not to relate to that.
But what's important to Sisters is that Kate and Maura want to have fun. And they want to have it together.
Sisters *** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Jason Moore. With Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Ike Barinholtz, James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, Maya Rudolph. Distributed by
Running time: 1 hour, 58 mins.
Parent's guide: R (language, drug use).
Playing at: Area theaters.EndText