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Sisters: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Sisters (2015) movie poster Sisters

Theatrical Release: December 18, 2015 / Running Time: 118 Minutes (theatrical), 122 Minutes (extended) / Rating: R (theatrical), Unrated (extended)

Director: Jason Moore / Writer: Paula Pell

Cast: Amy Poehler (Maura Ellis), Tina Fey (Kate Ellis), Maya Rudolph (Brinda Cliffert), Ike Barinholtz (James), James Brolin (Bucky Ellis), Dianne Wiest (Deana Ellis), John Cena (Pazuzu), John Leguizamo (Dave Blackmon), Bobby Moynihan (Alex Decicco), Greta Lee (Hae-Won), Madison Davenport (Haley Ellis), Rachel Dratch (Kelly Drummel), Santino Fontana (Mr. Henry Geernt), Britt Lower (Mrs. Jane Geent), Samantha Bee (Liz Deap), Matt Oberg (Rob Frye), Kate McKinnon (Sam Leernerveen), Colleen Werthmann (Cray), Jon Glaser (Dan), Renιe Elise Goldsberry (Kim), Chris Parnell (Phil), Paula Pell (Dana), Dan Byrd (Patrick Campbell), Emily Tarver (Brayla), Brian d'Arcy James (Jerry), Heather Matarazzo (Denny), Adrian Martinez (Officer Jason Harris)

Buy Sisters from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video: Theatrical • Unrated

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have had insanely synchronous careers. Each was born in the early 1970s in America's Northeast and joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live" around the turn of the millennium. Fey broke in as a writer and rose to head writer before transitioning to a featured on-camera performer in 2000. Poehler was cast the following season and became a full-fledged cast member halfway into her first season.
The two perhaps were best known for their work on mid-show fixture "Weekend Update", SNL's quotable faux news broadcast. Fey anchored with Jimmy Fallon from 2000 to 2004, then shared the news desk with Poehler for the next two seasons. While Fey left to pursue movies in 2006, Poehler stuck around, co-anchoring for another two years before making her own exit.

Fey instantly experienced movie success as the screenwriter and a cast member of the already-iconic 2004 high school comedy Mean Girls. Her next big venture would be "30 Rock", the popular and decorated NBC comedy series set behind-the-scenes of an NBC sketch comedy series. Running seven seasons, it would bolster her creative reputation and still allow for some major movies to be made on the side. Those included 2008's Baby Mama, a Fey-Poehler two-hander that doubled its budget at the box office to mildly favorable reviews. Poehler went on to star, produce, and occasionally write her own beloved single-camera NBC Thursday night comedy, "Parks and Recreation", while also showing up in a variety of movies, TV shows, and animation voiceover gigs.

Now in their early forties and defying Hollywood's long-held expiration dates, the similarly seasoned ladies reunite on Sisters, an R-rated comedy that also credits each as producer. Opening a week before Christmas, the same day as a little record-shattering movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Sisters testified to the actresses' enduring appeal, earning nearly $80 M domestic and over $100 M worldwide on a very modest studio picture budget of $30 M.

In "Sisters", Maura (Amy Poehler) and Kate Ellis (Tina Fey) show their childhood home's prospective buyers they're not crazy about the pending sale.

Maura Ellis (Poehler) is a compassionate Atlanta nurse who is struggling to move on from her divorce two years earlier. Her older sister Kate (Fey) is an unfiltered loose cannon, who is now working as a hair stylist from home, having lost another job. Her teenage daughter can't put up with her, taking off without even letting her know where she has been. The two sisters go to Orlando, where their parents (James Brolin and Diane Wiest) have decided to sell the girls' childhood home. Actually, they've already sold it and moved into an adult community while the new occupants are to move in soon.

Overwhelmed by the emotions of the situation, Maura and Kate decide to throw a final one of their legendary "Ellis Island" parties that were so much fun when they were growing up. Stocking up at Big Lots, they invite all their old friends and despite the short notice and the fact that most of them have families, plenty show up. The party is initially a dud, but the Ellis sisters eventually pump up the jam with the help of a well-stocked drug dealer (John Cena) and some Korean manicurists.

With Kate playing "Party Mom" for once and remaining uncharacteristically sober, the party still escalates out of control, with broken walls, a washing machine that turns into a foam party, paint in the swimming pool, and all kinds of reckless behavior. Meanwhile, Kate tries to keep out her snooty old nemesis (Maya Rudolph), who can't stop crashing the party and Maura tries to revive her love life with James (Ike Barinholtz), a kind neighbor she just met.

Maura (Amy Poehler) and Kate (Tina Fey) spend their last night in their childhood home throwing a final one of their legendary "Ellis Island" parties.

Why should men be the only ones to make these kinds of comedy films? Sisters feels like the product of the young troupe that Judd Apatow developed crossed with a bit of an R-rated Grown Ups.
Unlike those movies, this one is written by a woman: longtime "SNL" scribe Paula Pell, making her feature screenwriting debut. As Melissa McCarthy's career success has shown, moviegoers appreciate funny women. The entire film industry has long skewed towards men and comedy especially is treated as a boys' playground. But though their most treasured work has been on television, Poehler and Fey have comedy chops worthy of the big screen. They demonstrate that here, making the most of off-color material that would make lesser entertainers stumble.

The drugs, sex, and profanity will make some of those accustomed to the leading ladies' TV work blush, but it's not any more outrageous than what you'll find in other hit R-rated comedies of the past few years, from Bridesmaids and Spy to The Hangover and Step Brothers. It doesn't have any of the huge laughs of those films, but it consistently diverts. And while it may try a little too hard to ground the shenanigans in some substantial introspection (and runs a bit too long, clocking in just under two hours), you've got to credit Pell for at least acknowledging the life issues of fortysomethings and the therapeutic value of settled down adults sewing wild oats again.

Naturally, some bits work better than others. As Alex, the wannabe class clown who tries hard to be funny to modest success, Bobby Moynihan is a hoot, even when his character goes off the rails thinking he's snorted Stevia (it's not). On the other hand, John Leguizamo's sketchy boozer could be cut at no detriment to the film. The most amusing moments are also the film's most random, like Maura's struggle to pronounce her manicurist's name, Hae-Won. You can easily imagine moments like these being improvised and embellished by the seasoned stars, suspicions that the bonus features here certainly confirm.

The film may never fully win you over, but it also never loses you, which is a real risk for racy romps such as this. In his follow-up to his popular debut Pitch Perfect, Broadway-seasoned director Jason Moore proves comfortable with the material, without displaying any of the wit and ingenuity that have fast-tracked Paul Feig's filmmaking career.

On both Blu-ray and DVD, Sisters is presented in both its original theatrical cut and an unrated extended one that runs four minutes and 36 seconds longer. As usual, the difference is made by a number of small changes woven throughout, with each format presenting the alternate cuts via branching.

Sisters: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 5.1 DTS (Spanish); theatrical cut only: 5.1 DTS (French), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French); theatrical cut only: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 15, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $34.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video: Theatrical, Unrated

VIDEO and AUDIO

Sisters is a studio film through and through, which makes the Ellis Island party look a lot more dapper and cinematic than you'd expect a slapdash affair prepared for with a Big Lots trip to be. The 2.40:1 picture is sharp, vibrant, and colorful. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix is lively, crisp, and spry. The feature presentation leaves nothing to be desired in 1080p.

A deleted subplot finds this long-married couple (Renιe Elise Goldsberry and Jon Glaser) trying to spice their love life up with some mutual infidelity. Tina Fey throws improvisations at John Cena in one of many alternate line reels.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with a section of nine deleted scenes (18:03), which include some whole deleted storylines. They show us a long-married couple (Jon Glaser and Renιe Elise Goldsberry)

trying to hook up with other people at the party, Kate collecting a cover charge, James not wanting to get into the pool with Maura, and the house buyers getting a comeuppance.

Next up come nine extended scenes (16:54), which add many additional jokes to the sisters' Big Lots run-in with Brinda (Maya Rudolph), Hae-Won's party arrival, Kate consoling Kelly, Maura's bedroom flirting with James, Kate and Brinda's house sale talk, and the salon ending.

You had to know there would be a gag reel included here. Running 3 minutes and 17 seconds, it includes some references to Star Wars, a lot of playful banter, contagious laughter, and some alternate lines or deliveries.

"The Improvorama" (8:40) is the first of five features dedicated to preserving unused improvisations and alternate lines. This one shows off Poehler and Fey's abilities, with a little bit of Greta Lee, Ike Barinholtz, Maya Rudolph, John Leguizamo, and John Cena thrown in too. "How to Throw a Party" (1:36) gathers more questionable party ideas from the lesbian characters played by Kate McKinnon and Colleen Werthmann. "Grown-Up Parties Suck" (5:18) shows us more awkward middle-aged exchanges from the party at its shaky infancy. "The Alex Chronicles" (2:51) collects alternate lines evidently improvised by Bobby Moynihan. "The Kate and Pazuzu Chronicles" (2:05) does the same for the characters of Tina Fey and John Cena, with Fey doing the improvising and Cena stoically reacting.

Director Jason Moore watches a monitor during the filming of the Big Lots scene in "A Teen Movie...for Adults." "Sisters" writer Paula Pell reads from the embarrassing diary she kept as a 13-year-old in "The Original Sister."

"A Teen Movie...for Adults" (10:26) is a general making-of featurette that describes the story, its use of party movie tropes, celebrates the writer, director, and the production design that saw the Orlando house built on a soundstage in Long Island.

"The Original Sister" (6:40) lets writer Paula Pell share her teenaged personal diary, an inspiration for the film, with she and much of the cast reading from it. It's pretty painful and personal.

"Pool Collapse VFX" (0:50) briefly dissects the layers of effects applied for the climactic sinkhole moment. Because you were dying to know!

Finally, we get an audio commentary by Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, director Jason Moore, and writer Paula Pell, which you can listen to over either cut of the film.
As you might expect, the conversation flows from this group and so too does the laughter. The little bits of personal revelation make up for the track's general willingness to just be amused at what they have made and critical of how they look (there are countless jokes about Fey and Poehler winning Natchie Awards for aging naturally).

The discs open with trailers for "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt", Rock the Kasbah, Big Stone Gap, Kindergarten Cop, 2015's Legend, and Ride Along 2.

The DVD includes the deleted scenes, extended scenes, the gag reel, "Improvorama", and the commentary.

The main menu simply attaches some score to the bathtub shot of the sisters (with subtle Big Lots product placement dropped).

The two silver discs share a blue keepcase with a Digital HD insert that is topped by an embossed and textured slipcover.

Kate (Tina Fey) and Maura (Amy Poehler) try to get out of trouble with the law, when the police are called in to respond to their rowdy party's loud noise.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Sisters allows Amy Poehler and Tina Fey a chance to make the kind of raunchy R-rated comedies that are typically made for and by men. The results are entertaining enough, without ever approaching the heights of the subgenre's biggest hits.

With its fine feature presentation, two cuts, and staggering amount of bonus material, Universal's combo pack won't disappoint anyone who enjoyed the film enough to revisit it with any frequency.

Buy Sisters from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video: Theatrical • Unrated


Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
New to Disc: The Night Before • Daddy's Home • Drunk History: Season 3 • The Spoils of Babylon • The Big Short
Tina Fey: This Is Where I Leave You • Date Night • Admission
Amy Poehler: Are You Here • A.C.O.D. • Blades of Glory • Inside Out • Free Birds
Maya Rudolph: Grown Ups • Grown Ups 2 • Away We Go • Friends with Kids • The Way, Way Back
Step Brothers • The Hangover • This Is the End • Superbad • The D Train • Romy & Michele's High School Reunion

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Reviewed March 21, 2016.



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