A few good comedic moments and rammed with great talent, you'll almost forget you're watching a disaster - almost

SISTERS (Jason Moore). 118 minutes. Opens Friday (December 18). See listing. Rating: NN

Sisters is a mess, and at least half an hour too long, but when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler find the right idea to mess with, or just spend a couple of minutes goofing around with each other, you get a sense of the movie they and screenwriter Paula Pell set out to make.

That movie would have been a giddy, generous comedy about two adult siblings determined to throw themselves one last party in their parents’ family home before it’s sold. This film’s a shapeless, frenzied beast that, despite surrounding the leads with other gifted comic performers, doesn’t know when to stop.

Flipping Poehler and Fey’s Baby Mama dynamic, Sisters casts Poehler as the compulsively responsible one, Maura, and Fey as the hellion, Kate. When their parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) decide to move into a condo and put their old house on the market, the siblings return to Orlando to send the place off in style, inviting their entire Facebook friend list and hoping to cause enough damage to sour the sale.

It’s a simple enough concept, but all the proportions are off. It takes a good 45 minutes to get the party under way and another hour before it’s over, because director Jason Moore, who juggled half a dozen stories so ably in Pitch Perfect, can’t seem to keep this one under control for more than three or four minutes at a time.

The weird thing is, I like pretty much everyone in this movie. I legitimately love Fey and Poehler, and I’m very fond of Samantha Bee, Bobby Moynihan, Kate McKinnon, Rachel Dratch and Maya Rudolph, too. John Leguizamo? Britt Lower? Also great. And Jon Glaser and Chris Parnell and John Lutz and Sue Galloway and Heather Matarazzo and Ann Harada – seriously, this movie’s so packed with talent that it even finds room for Spotlight’s Brian d’Arcy James.

Every actor has his or her moment. Moynihan’s especially delightful as a doofus who imagines himself to be a cut-up. (At one point he gets stuck doing a terrible impression of Al Pacino in Scarface and becomes the human equivalent of The Simpsons’ rake gag.)

But the movie doesn’t know when to stop, or even when it might want to change tempo. The party goes on and on and on, and the conceit of middle-aged people trying to behave like teenagers – which I think started out as a vaguely melancholy notion, exploring the chasm between the people we imagined we’d be and the people we actually are – is quickly abandoned for gags about awkward sex and accidental rectal impalement. (Side note: Ike Barinholtz is a very, very good sport.) 

John Cena, who showed an unexpected comic side in Trainwreck, turns up here as a tight-lipped drug dealer named Pazuzu it’s the Channing Tatum walk-on role of “funny buff guy,” except that no one bothered to define the role beyond that. But he still gets a good 15 minutes of screen time, and it’s just a distraction from the movie’s real story and its stars. 

Fey and Poehler are both incredible talents, and in the early, less manic scenes of Sisters it’s great to watch them bounce dialogue off each other, riffing ever so casually within the structure of a scene. Then the movie takes away that structure and collapses quickly into chaos. It’s a sinkhole of fun.

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