The consensus about Life of the Party is that Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone should stop working together. His last few collaborations with his wife have been panned by critics and ordinary moviegoers alike. The latest movie falls into the same category, but there are some reasons to watch Life of the Party.
The film is about Deanna (Melissa McCarthy), a mom who gets surprised by her husband’s divorce announcement, just as their daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) is about to finish her senior year of college. Realizing that she gave up her college education to focus on her marriage decades ago, Deanna decides to re-enroll and complete her senior year at her daughter’s college. Shit ensues (somewhat).
1. It’s a low-stress, low-stakes movie.
There was definitely room to explore a breakdown between mother and daughter in the movie. I mean, how many of us would want to finish college with our mothers? Falcone’s writing largely tiptoes around this issue, though. Instead, if you’re looking for a relatively stress-free movie outing, Life of the Party is perfect in every way. The most panic-worthy event of the story is Deanna’s midterm final, where she sweats around 5% of her water weight. If you don’t want to break down into tears, this is the perfect movie.
2. It’s a great match for parents and grandparents.
As I entered the theater on the movie’s second weekend, the audience was primarily working adults, parents, and retirees (I’m assuming the last one in that list, but given the economy, who knows?). The trailer seemed to be targeting a younger crowd, especially since McCarthy’s character is about to live her college life once again. A mom going back to college? Is she going to do a keg stand?
But the standard of the humor suggested otherwise. It was somewhat mellow and lacked a sharp bite. Of course, Maya Rudolph’s Christine, Deanna’s best friend, evens things out with a dose of crassness whenever she’s on screen, playing a hypersexual married woman. But when she’s absent, the crowd-pleasing jokes mostly become damp. The core premise of the jokes is a mom whose at odds with the times, a dinosaur learning new tricks if you will. Given that, the humor and jokes are bound to be more relatable to an older crowd, parents for instance. A doting mother who keeps embarrassing her daughter at the most inconvenient moment? So relatable. Right, moms?
3. Melissa McCarthy reliably delivers a good performance.
It must be said that McCarthy’s Deanna pales in comparison to her previous characters in films like Bridesmaids or Spy. But that could be primarily pinned down to the writing. Given the audience the movie was trying to cater to, her delivery had to be somewhat tamed and tempered down.
Deanna’s a mom who sacrificed most of her adult life to raise a child and look after her asshole husband Dan (Matt Walsh), who leaves her for a beautiful but stereotypically bitchy real estate broker (Julie Bowen). Kindness is seared into Deanna’s DNA, so there’s only so much craziness that you can expect from her. The film’s PG-13 rating is also evidence of this. If you want a dirtier movie with McCarthy, you better wait for The Happytime Murders. If you don’t, this is it.
4. A solid supporting cast follows suit.
The supporting characters in the film do their due diligence. The standout is Gillian Jacobs’ Helen, a sophomore student who recently came out of an eight-year coma. She’s one of the oddballs in the film with her eccentric mannerisms and slow learning curve, but to be fair, she has eight years of catching up to do. She’s one of the younger college gals who takes a liking to Deanna and reintegrates her into college life, bringing forth some interesting scenarios, some involving weed bark, some without.
As mentioned earlier, Maya Rudolph injects a dose of raunchy humor to the film, being Deanna’s advocate in college and outside, mostly with her impending divorce proceedings. If you’re familiar with her shtick and love it, Life of the Party has a lot of her.
5. One excellent plot surprise.
The film mostly follows genre conventions and an expected direction for the plot. A mom enters the same college her daughter goes to. There’s some friction there. How does she balance her role as the good parent while at the same time enjoy her last year of college?
The film provides a robust laugh at the halfway point by merging two separate storylines. On one hand, we’re taken through Deanna’s new life through college. On the other, we navigate her divorce proceedings with Dan. Rather than functioning separately along parallel lines, Falcone merges these two and brings out some strong material midway through. What makes it better is that Rudolph’s Christine is also part of the festivities to make some crass jokes.
That sums up 5 reasons to watch Life of the Party. If it’s still not your cup of tea, check out our Action & Adventure posts. Maybe you’ll reconsider Justice League.