Sisters Review

Sisters looks like it’s going to be the comedy of the season. It’s written by funny people (Paula Pell from SNL), directed by funny people (Jason Moore from Pitch Perfect) and stars funny people (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler). So, does it stand up to its pedigree?

 Sisters stars Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, John Leguizamo, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena and is directed by Jason Moore. The film follows sisters Katie (Fey) and Maura (Poehler) as they return to their childhood home to throw one last party.

First off, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are great. The two actresses have amazing chemistry and are able to bounce well off each other throughout the entire film. The film works well when it sits back and we watch them try and catch their long lost childhood by reading their old diaries or dancing around to 80s classics. The funniest lines are the small one-liners that look they were just ad-libbed, with the rest of the script being rather witless.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some good jokes. John Cena, in his second comedy role this year, knocks it out of the park as drug-seller Pazuzu. His introductory scene, where he lists off the different drugs that he has to sell is incredibly funny. For the rest of the film he remains virtually silent, towering over the rest of the guests and throwing out death-stares to anyone who tries to talk to him, but whenever he does open his mouth, he usually has an excellent one-liner. Another good sequence in the film involves Maura’s childhood music box and a local heartthrob, James (Barinholtz) who Maura invites to the party. While the base of the joke is rather puerile, Poehler and Barinholtz manage to keep the remnant of a good joke together, although it ends rather abruptly, before leaving the film and it’s implications at the door.

The main problem is that Sisters is trying to hit so many film party staples. The BBFC lists the films as having “very strong language, strong sex references and drug use”, and while it does feature copious amounts of all three, none of them feel as good as other films that did it better or did it first. The obvious comparison is with Animal House, but there are other nods such as 21 And Over and Bad Neighbours. The film is at it’s best when it’s subverting the tropes in these films (the main difference is that all the party attendees are safely into middle age) but sadly Sisters just seems content with aping every other party film. I’m certain you could cut the montage moments from Sisters and switch them with the ones from 21 And Over and no-one would be able to see the difference.

The film builds and builds over the ridiculously long running time, but it doesn’t have the brains to keep up. Soon into the party phase, the film just goes over-board, throwing situations out and hoping one of them will get a laugh. It gets to a low point with an incongruous Scarface reference and wanton destruction that just feels really forced. Sisters tries and keeps the audience laughing by giving every character a bucketful of swear words in between the set pieces, but these soon just turn into childish attempts to seem adult. Swearing does not make a film mature. It only makes a joke funny by the set-up; randomly shouting out rude words won’t get many laughs beyond the first couple.

In summary, Sisters had a good line-up of talented people, but the script really brings down the end product. There are some good moments and jokes but not enough of them to make it a worthy watch.

Score: 5/10 Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have done much better comedy.

Trainwreck Review

Judd Apatow is said to be one of the best comedy directors around today. With several films such as Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Funny People under his belt, it seems like he is consistently creating funnier and funnier films. Can Trainwreck follow these earlier hits?

Trainwreck stars Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Colin Quinn, LeBron James and John Cena and is directed by Judd Apatow. The film follows Amy (Schumer), who after being told by her dad (Quinn) as a young girl that monogamy isn’t realistic, lives her life as a series of sexual flings. But soon, a young doctor (Hader) appears in her life, and Amy starts to think is her single life as good as it seems?

The cast and acting is phenomenal. Amy Schumer is looking to be the next biggest hit in comedy, and Trainwreck cements her new role as one of the funniest female comics today. Her chemistry with Bill Hader as Aaron seems very real, and they bounce well off each other. John Cena turns in a very respectable performance, actually having some character rather than just being a set of pectorals and abs. The only weak performances are given by LeBron James (playing himself), which is very one-note and wooden and an almost unrecognizable Tilda Swinton who is Amy’s boss. She has a very plummy British accent which seems rather annoying and most of her jokes and lines are just not funny.

The jokes come at a rapid pace, from the very first scene to the last. The first scene in particular, where a young Amy and her sister are being told by their dad “monogamy isn’t realistic” is a brilliant scene, full of child interpretations of cheating on your spouse. A recurring joke about a black and white film called The Dog Walker featuring Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei is funny as it is a brutal satire on the more “art house” and Sundance style of filmmaking. There is also a nice little nod to Woody Allen’s Manhattan halfway throughout the film, with a funny sexual pun at the end. The script shows that Schumer is a brilliant writer and she has a knack for creating jokes when you least expect it, making them even funnier. However, there are quite a few jokes that don’t work or just feel really off kilter. An extended joke about Cleveland, Ohio, which probably doesn’t make much sense for audiences outside of the US, is pretty dire, but that’s not even the worst part. Racism, homophobia and ethnic slurs are used, mostly by Colin Quinn as Amy’s father, but they are not used to subvert the stereotypes used. The scenes are just long enough for it to start feeling just a bit too awkward before the script jumps back to a less offensive character.

The film also references several current events and cultural events, which might seem fine now but after a few years the film will seem incredibly dated. Game Of Thrones’ Red Wedding (which was two years ago at time of writing) a child talking about Minecraft and the several cameos of famous sport stars, they all feel like they’re going to be obsolete conversations and people in the future, and some just feel tacked on just for the sake of naming them in the film.

Along with Tilda Swinton’s boring character and the off-colour jokes, the other problem I have with the film is not diverting from the Classic Hollywood Narrative. The CHN (as it’s known within the industry) is a very clichéd plot sequence that everyone has probably seen a thousand times i.e. boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl argue and break up, they both look out windows while soft music plays in the background and finally reconcile and get back together. It’s the film that Matthew McConaughey has made several hundred times under different names. Trainwreck doesn’t deviate from this plan at all, even doing the clichéd montage of the person getting their life in order at the end of the film. It’s only the script that makes the film stand apart from its shackles of a cookie cutter story, but that’s all it needs to create a big enough wave in the comedy genre.

In conclusion, Trainwreck is one of the funniest films I have seen in the cinemas in a long time. Laughing at least ten times before the main titles had even flashed up on the screen, it’s a brilliant new take from a excellent new female voice, a role which until recently only seemed to be filled by Melissa McCarthy. Give this film your time, you won’t regret it.

Score: 9/10 One of the best comedies of 2015.