Like the central party gone wrong, this film cranks up to fun drunken heights of sibling chemistry and silly smutty comedy but crashes down to the ultimate hangover of sparse laughs and predictable sisterly heart. It’s neither bad nor good, it’s entertaining as a whole and shows off just why Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are a fine double act.
After learning that her mother and father are selling the house they grew up in, wild non-child Kate (Tina Fey) and worrying square Maura (Amy Poehler) decide to throw a party to recapture their youth and see what it’s like in each others shoes. So as the house full of adults partying gets madder and madder, the sisters realise what the other puts up with.
It’s a fun enough comedy but not as snappy or perhaps sharp as I thought it may have been. Paula Pell lands her debut screenwriting job and hits all the marks you’d expect from an American comedy film. Her background for TV and links to Fey with scripting 30 Rock is felt with a scattering of well penned lines that zing really nicely. The idea of 40 somethings wanting to be youthful is nothing original but the chaotic proceedings written in the party distract from that clichéd basis for a narrative.
Jason Moore certainly knows how to direct a party. As drinks and pools overflow the home becomes a symbol of the damaging relationship the sisters have if they don’t both change. There’s nothing fancy either side of the party but it sets up the characters and that’s all you can really ask for. The manic throw-down of the Ellis Island reunion bash appears like a call back to ‘Animal House’ as total carnage ensues. Foam. Cocaine. Paint. Injury. Frat like behaviour, all of these features bash heads and swirl into a hazy mix to show off how insane this night is, this is where director and screenwriter have the most fun in giving more to not just the sisters but supporting characters also.
The whole predictable aspect of the romantic entanglement between Maura and neighbour James isn’t overly interesting as we know where’ll it end up but they do share perhaps the best scene of the film as they prepare to have sex and end up listening to a winding ballet doll which is rammed into the butt of nice guy James. We also get some laughs as a fat unfunny funny guy becomes the embodiment of Tony Montana with cocaine fuelling his spark. I may as well just put that the comedy mostly hits within the party as we see the adults behaving like teenagers.
It goes on a little too long, it’s almost forty minutes before any real laugh out loud moment happens and that’s close to when the party begins anyway. There are some places where it feels like Fey and Poehler are trying a little hard and then the resolution comes to a head so quickly that it feels like a tired writer wanting to wrap up the obvious threads of all involved. But that’s honestly the only big negatives, it’s an enjoyable film that suits as a lazy day watch.
Tina Fey lords it up as the woman-child of the piece, her squeals and tantrums are on point, she grimaces and scowls like an angsty adolescent but she shows off the softer almost Liz Lemon side she has when needed. Amy Poehler gets to have more fun in playing the dopier sister transitioning into the drunken reveller. As she becomes more intoxicated Poehler demonstrates how well she can play inebriated and what a ball she has with it. Ike Barinholtz has his best moment in the previously mentioned scene but apart from that he only serves as the potential new hope for Maura. Maya Rudolph appears now and then but almost steals the show as painfully dull and wannabe posh Brinda. The faces she pulls are just incredible. Oh and points to the film for the John Cena casting who appears like a brick-house of muscle and drug dealing comedy.
It has some fine moments but that doesn’t stop it from being quite weak and relying on a lengthy party to capture magic and laughs. To see Poehler and Fey on true form then witness their hosting of the Golden Globes, as here they fall a little short of the fantastic talent they both share.