MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Life of the Party’

This is one party not worth attending.

Review by J.T. Johnson

DIRECTOR: Ben Falcone
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Julio Macat
WRITERS: Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy
MUSIC: Fil Eisler

There were many times that I wanted “Life of the Party” to be a good movie. There were some good performances, some genuine laughs and a core story that could have been something special. Unfortunately, the film kept tripping over itself with jokes that don’t always hit and the story is usually pushed to the side in order to facilitate jokes or sequences that don’t always payoff. This includes a really dumb moment where Christina Aguilera cameos as herself and that alone almost killed the whole thing for me.

The movie follows the extremely likable Deanna Miles (Melissa McCarthy) as she drops her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) off for her senior year. Just before they leave the campus, Deanna’s husband Dan (Matt Walsh) hits her with the unexpected news that he wants a divorce. Now, Deanna is faced with being forced into a new life and soon, she decides to go back to college to finish her senior year and graduate with her daughter Maddie.

Inevitably, hijinks ensue as Deanna makes friends with Maddie’s sorority sisters, including Helen (Gillian Jacobs), a sister who is also a little older due to having been in a coma for eight years. She also shacks up with a young student, deals with a couple of mean girls and tries to get along with her goth roommate Leonor (Heidi Gardner). Still, none of the things that happen in this movie are all that original, so you just hope they’re funny and I can’t always say that is the case.

McCarthy is once again great as she tries to save a subpar script that just isn’t up to her talents. She is also joined by a supporting character named Christine, played to perfection by Maya Rudolph. In fact, Rudolph is so funny in this movie that I almost want to recommend it just for her alone. Will somebody please give this woman her own film!

Beyond the jokes not always hitting on all cylinders, I also didn’t really like how they took the story of a woman retaking her life and pretty much just shoved it to the side. It also doesn’t help that the mean girls that she has to face off against as well as her ex-husband and his new girlfriend are cartoon villains at times. They go a little overboard and I had a hard time believing just how horrible these people were to Deanna.

There is also a point in the movie where Deanna has her own bit of a comeuppance scene where she begins to question her choices. I never really saw why she was apologizing for anything. She has what appears to be a fine fling with a younger man that wants to genuinely be with her, she goes to parties but she maintains high grades and when she does something to get back at Dan, I couldn’t really blame her with how he and his girlfriend have treated her.

Ultimately, I left the film feeling underwhelmed more than anything. It’s a long way from being the worst comedy I’ve ever seen and I can even see some people enjoying it for what it is. For me, though, this was one party that I wish I had ultimately skipped.

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