Hot Take: We’ve seen every piece of this movie before (Back to School, PCU, Revenge of the Nerds, Mean Girls and any Melissa McCarthy movie ever) and understand why it’s never been put together like this. A boring, mostly unfunny comedy that proves yet again that McCarthy should never star in a movie directed by her husband, as if Tammy and The Boss weren’t enough proof.
Ben Falcone and I grew up during the same time period. So, it’s not a stretch that Back to School or PCU would have had an influence on a film he made. Both films, especially Back to School, were run on a loop on HBO and Cinemax in the ’80s and ’90s. Life of the Party, the latest from Melissa McCarthy, is basically an amalgamation of the two movies with a gender swap on the main character and a sprinkling of a few other movies, as well. McCarthy is a more sanitized version of Rodney Dangerfield’s character whose one regret is never getting a college degree. Most of the movies Life of the Party is inspired by are much better than this Frankenstein of a college life movie and McCarthy’s particular brand of humor falls even flatter than normal here as she’s less caustic and crass than normal. The result is a film that will likely strike a cord with the die hard McCarthy following (who seems to like everything she does no matter the quality) but find little to no reaction from the rest of us.
In Life of the Party, immediately after dropping off their daughter (Molly Gordon) for her senior year of college, husband Dan (Matt Walsh) asks wife Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) for a divorce and reveals he’s having an affair with local realtor Marcie (Julie Bowen). With her world falling apart, Deanna decides to go back to college to get her archaeology degree. With the support of her best friend (Maya Rudolph) and her daughter’s sorority mates (Gillian Jacobs, Adria Arjona & Jessie Ennis), Deanna tackles the challenges of going back to school later in life which happen to be… ummm… getting laid by younger guys too often and giving an oral report? Yeah… well, that’s about it.
Sorry to say but Life of the Party lacks any sort of depth outside of a nice, oversimplified “women should support each other” message. Outside of one or two funny moments (there was one particular laugh out loud scene in the middle of the movie at a restaurant), Life of the Party is short on laughs. Even the funniest scene is ruined by being overseasoned with Rudolph overselling the bit. Maybe I’m hypercritical of McCarthy as I haven’t been much of a fan of her work and this particular film is so derivative of movies that I’ve seen more times than I can remember and actually find to be entertaining. Even though the film takes a more subdued approach to McCarthy’s usual brand of comedy, you can see those scenes coming from a mile away. You’d think it would be better since McCarthy co-wrote the film with her husband but instead is more shocking as the film feels as if it were written for someone else and was adapted to fit McCarthy’s style.
Outside of the overly positive girl power message, Life of the Party has no other redeeming qualities worth mentioning. Despite the potential of McCarthy and the cast surrounding her to deliver laughs, the comedy never lives up to its potential. That’s typical for the McCarthy/Falcone collaboration. No one should be surprised. Unless you’re obsessed with McCarthy’s work, missing this one won’t be the worst thing that happens.
You’re a huge Melissa McCarthy fan and don’t see why critics and audiences weren’t thrilled with Tammy and The Boss.
Even McCarthy’s funniest films don’t do much for you.