Melissa McCarthy is extremely funny, but unfortunately, her movies tend to be up or down. She has not found a consistent format to translate her humor to the big screen. Some of her films are just really funny (Spy, The Heat) and some are just terrible (The Boss, Tammy). Life of the Party falls somewhere in-between.
McCarthy plays Deanna, the mother of Maddie (Molly Gordon)-a senior at college, who is just beginning her senior year. It was as they were dropping Maddie off at school that Deanna’s husband Dan (Matt Walsh) decides to ask for a divorce.
Crushed, Deanna decides to go back to college, something she gave up on when she married Dan, to complete her degree in archeology. And Deanna goes back to her alma mater, the same college where her daughter goes.
There was a lot of things that I liked about this film. I thought Melissa McCarthy was great and I really did like her character Deanna. The film creates a group of supportive friends for Deanna that actually happen to be Maddie’s friends, which is weird, but works very well. Several of these characters are funny, especially Helen (Gillian Jacobs) who had spent 8 years in a coma.
There was an interesting relationship formed by Deanna with a young, hunky college student named Jack (Luke Benward) which I thought was interesting. McCarthy and Benward were good together and made their scenes feel real.
I also thought much of the film was pretty funny and I laughed several times. For most of the movie, I had a smile on my face and I have said before that if a comedy is funny, it helps cover some of the other flaws that it may have.
And the film does have its share of flaws. First, there is not really a story here. I mean, there are what feels like a series of sketches where we throw Deanna and her friends into situations to see what happens, but there is not much of a through line to maintain these scenes and even less of a challenge for Deanna to overcome.
There are some ridiculous moments in the film that just feel too forced. There is too much focus on the slapstick of the scenes instead of creating the humor in natural ways.
Maya Rudolph played Deanna’s best friend Christine and she was way over-the-top most of the time. I did truly enjoy her relationship with her husband Frank (Damon Jones) though as it was a running joke that felt like it paid off each time.
The special cameo at the end was probably my least favorite part of the whole film and it felt as if it was in danger of going off the rails.
However, I do think I laughed more than I cringed and I did think much of the film was good hearted so I am giving this one a pass. If you are a fan of Melissa McCarthy, this one should entertain you. If you don’t like her shtick, then this will not convert you despite it being better than many.