Sisters

 

Amy Poehler was acclaimed for voicing the role of Joy in the beloved Inside Out this summer. But, as winter beckons, there is no Joy in Mudville. Amy Poehler has struck out.

Tina Fey was one of the brains behind the Netflix hit The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, released in March. But, come December, Kimmy may want to go back underground after seeing Tina’s latest film Sisters.

The setup for this comedy is pure gold. The sisters, Maura (Poehler) and Kate (Fey), are heading back to their childhood home to visit mom and dad (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin). But when they arrive, they find that mom and dad have sold the house and moved into a condo.

The house is empty and ready for final inspection before closing. Okay, empty except for everything that remains in the girls’ rooms. Kate and Maura find their old diaries and other memorabilia. That scene should have made for some solid laughs. It did not.

They decide to throw one final big party before the home is passed along to the new owners. Here comes a problem: too many Saturday Night Live cast members who fail to deliver the goods. Their names: Bobby Moynihan, Kate McKinnon, Rachel Dratch and Maya Rudolph. (SNL alum Chris Parnell appears near the film’s open.) Despite raucous behavior galore, the party fails to generate commensurate guffaws. Even Samantha Bee, who regularly kills on The Daily Show, fails to connect in Sisters.

Amy and Tina are to be applauded for their efforts. They both try their damnedest to make Sisters work. But teen sex comedy style debauchery is not their forte.

I did like wrestler John Cena as a stoic drug dealer whose menu of intoxicants is ridiculously long. Also, I wonder about Bryan James D’Arcy. He’s in the cast, is seen a time or two but contributes little to the film.

Sisters looks great on paper: Two funny, likable ladies in a situation that portends strong comedy potential. Sadly, it doesn’t look so good onscreen.

Inside Out

Okay, Pixar is back. They’ve made a great movie again. Inside Out has many things to like and will appeal to audiences of all ages. Unless you are a total curmudgeon, you will be charmed.

The concept, in case you’ve missed the zillion or so TV ads for the film, is a trip inside a young girl’s mind where her various personified emotions face off with one another. It’s a fresh expansion of the old “devil versus angel” bit (fighting for control of a character’s conscience) we saw in numerous mid-20th century cartoons.

Inside the head of young Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) reside Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black). Riley’s preteen life is jarred when her parents (Kyle MacLachlan and Diane Lane) move from Minnesota to San Francisco.

Riley’s interior world features: a giant control panel where the five emotions interact, a huge repository of memories (each depicted by balls of various colors) and her islands of personality (representing family, hockey, goofball behavior, etc.). It’s a clever depiction of the many facets of thought that rule our brains.

Inside Out is funny early and late with touchy, feely stuff in middle and, naturally, toward the end. The film moves at an acceptable pace, though portions of the film’s middle section (when Joy and Sadness go deep into Riley’s psyche) become a bit tedious.

Among the voice actors, Amy Poehler as Joy is the film’s perfect anchor. Lewis Black as Anger takes full advantage of the many good opportunities to make his presence known. The others handle their roles adequately. Richard Kind gets silly while voicing Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong.

The cynical voices inside my head are urging me not to succumb to the sappy sweetness and manipulative storytelling of Inside Out, designed to diddle with my softer emotional side. But those directives are being drowned out by the upbeat voices that are encouraging me to give in to the gooey, warm, fuzzy feelings Inside Out evokes. This cool head trip requires no drugs to get you high. Welcome back, Pixar!