Review: Life of the Party

May 11, 2018
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Remember when Melissa McCarthy burst onto the scene?  It’s hard to believe it was only seven years ago that America gave her a standing slow clap for her performance in Bridesmaids.  I know she was on Mike & Molly before that but Bridesmaids was a genius comedic performance from an unconventional and unlikely star that put her on the map.  Since then, America has been holding on for her to give us a movie that would remind us of why we fell in love with her and she hasn’t done it.  In the last seven years, she’s given us two films (St. Vincent and Spy) that were of the caliber that we expected; and I think she just gave us her third.

Life of the Party is co-written and directed by her husband, Ben Falcone.  You’d recognize him as a funny cameo in all her films.  The two of them are easily one of the cutest Hollywood couples and I speak for everyone when we hope they stay together forever.  However, Falcone and McCarthy are not the dream team that you’d think when it comes to comedy.  He is also responsible for giving two of her worst movies she’s ever made (Tammy and The Boss).  When I saw that they were going to give it another try I had no faith that Life of the Party was going to be anything different than those two films but it’s shockingly good.

McCarthy plays a 50something who never finished college.  When she finds herself newly-divorced she decides to go back and finish her degree the same year her daughter is finishing hers.  If that plot sounds almost illegally similar to Rodney Dangerfield’s 1986 film Back to School, you’re right.  But let’s ignore that for a second because, hey, Hollywood rips itself off all the time.  Instead, let’s focus on how charming this film feels in 2018.  Making the story about a woman instead of a man feels safer, warmer, and less pervy, although the lustful nature of McCarthy’s character for boys over half her age is still very much part of the story.

McCarthy is fun in the film and very funny.  Instead of being some halfwit or nothing more than a smattering of fat jokes, she comes across as an everymom who gains her confidence back while solidifying her relationship with her daughter.  Granted, there are moments where it feels like she’s simply doing her best Chris Farley impersonation, but since he’s not here to star in Life of the Party (which he totally would have if he were alive), she’s a welcomed fill-in.  However, what makes the film better than expected was the casting of supporting actresses that chew up the scenes and McCarthy gives room to let them shine.  Gillian Jacobs (NBC’s Community, Hot Tub Time Machine 2), Maya Rudolph, and Heidi Gardner (SNL) are completely quirky and hilarious in every scene they’re in.

Life of the Party is a completely forgettable film; it won’t win awards, it won’t be your favorite movie of the year, and it certainly won’t make us forget about all the bad films that McCarthy has made.  What it will do, though, is make you laugh and smile for 90 minutes and then send you on your way.  It’s a watered down female empowerment comedy that is here and then meant to be that movie you can’t remember the name of in a few months but you remembered liking it.