I was thinking…
…demographics can mean everything to some movies. Some of you might have already tuned out after seeing the word ‘demographics,’ but it can be true. Whereas some films have a nearly universal appeal, other movies have a very specific audience. They are, what can be called, niche films.
Comedies can most certainly be niche films. Think about it. How often have you done a spit-take or shot milk our of your nose because of something you found hilarious only to notice your friend is shaking their head and wondering aloud if you’re “on something”?
Comedic tastes vary considerably. Having been raised on Monty Python and other British television, I understand and enjoy English humor far more than my wife, who prefers comedies like Legally Blonde. Heck, there are even entire states, such as Utah, that enjoy sophomoric movies such as Dumb and Dumber, leaving many of us to do the whole head shake thing.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (Baby Mama) have both achieved comedic heights with their respective TV shows 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, but that does not necessarily mean everything they touch turns to golden guffaws. At least, not for everybody in the audience.
Because of this, their latest joint venture, Sisters, could be considered more of a niche comedy. I’ll explain how in a moment.
Sisters, as the title would point out, is about a pair of siblings: Kate Ellis (Fey) is a single, essentially homeless, irresponsible beautician who cannot keep track of her teenage daughter’s whereabouts. Her younger sister, Maura (Poehler), meanwhile, is an overly responsible nurse, recovering from her recent divorce.
When their parents inform Maura they plan on selling the family home, the sisters return to Florida and temporarily move back into the house they grew up in to clear out their belongings and possibly thwart any sale from taking place.
Embarking on a nostalgic trip as they plow through the mess in their old bedroom, the pair attempt to relive their high school days by throwing a massive party. They agree, however, to switch roles for the night in question, with Kate playing the part of the responsible and sober ‘party mom,’ thus allowing her little sister to actually live a little for once.
Why is it that, at least in movies, making regrettable choices and life-altering mistakes is always considered to be “living a little”?
Although it is populated with very funny people, Sisters does take a little while to get started (kind of like this review). The laughs are more akin to nervous chuckles in the first 20 minutes or so, and it is not until the second act the ladies get it in gear and the driving smooths out.
But the bumps return during the denouement, however (could a movie like this even have a denouement), failing to make it a solid comedic vehicle.
As for the demographic angle, a lot of the humor is derived from a knowledge of the 1980’s. If you did not grow up or at least have a healthy memory of 80’s pop culture, a considerable amount of the jokes might pass you by. Not particularly caring for your high school years might affect how you respond as well.
There are also the issues of vulgarity, drug use, alcoholism and rampant immorality. For those of us who feared our parents as much as we feared a vengeful and wrathful God and therefore never had a house party, we instead get our laughs from watching the sorrow of the damned and the disasters they inflict upon themselves. Fortunately, there is plenty of both in this film.
Of note, too, is the issue of role reversal. As in Baby Mama, Tina Fey so often plays the straight-laced, attempting-to-be-responsible adult, it does take some time to accept her as the potty-mouthed, selfish, puerile one. Once that new reality settles in, it is a delightful alteration.
While somewhat predictable (and it can be argued that most comedies are), Sisters does manage to split the sides a bit. Watching wrestler John Cena playing a drug dealer who peddles everything from crack to Gummy Flinstones vitamins, is especially enjoyable.
In the end, though, the real smiles come from knowing you have your life a whole lot more together than any of the people in the movie do.
Ammo Dump rating: 6 out of 10 ballerina music boxes
I’ll talk more about this film and others during my (every once in a while) radio show. Listen in on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on @ALphaEXray to find out when I’ll be on the air.. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter
Run time: 118 minutes