Life of the Party? More like Trip to the Emergency Room.
As in there’s nothing funny about this Melissa McCarthy comedy, in which she plays newly divorced mom Deanna who joins her daughter at college, while the laughs take the semester off.
Deanna’s midlife crisis is triggered when Dan, her husband of nearly 25 years, announces that he is having an affair with a successful real estate agent named Marcie (Julie Bowen). And since we have to really root for Deanna, Dan takes great pains in telling Deanna how happy in love he is with the other woman. Marcie will prove to be even colder to Deanna, thus giving her two enemies and us more of a reason to root for her to show them both.
Directed by Ben Falcone. Screenplay by Falcone and Melissa McCarthy. A Warner Bros. release playing at Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, Levis Commons, Bowling Green, Mall of Monroe, and Sundance Kid Drive-in. Rated PG-13 for sexual material, drug content, and partying. Running time: 105 minutes.
Critic's rating: ½★
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Gillian Jacobs, and Debby Ryan.
Her daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon), isn't so sure about about Mom's decision to go back to school, just as she is starting her senior year, but grows to accept it because, well, her sorority friends find “Dee Rock,” as Deanna comes to be known, is actually pretty cool.
Deanna is the archetypal mom at midlife — if all stay-at-home mothers looked like they stepped out of 1986, are soft-spoken and always agreeable, and offer hugs aplenty.
The character, at first, is an excuse for McCarthy to parade in frumpy-as-funny fashion and hairstyles and say rather than scream punchlines.
Of course, Deanna won’t stay meek, permed, and bedazzled. Transformation is what drives the humor and plot to these fish-out-of-water comedies, along with the inevitable deep regret of that transformation, followed by the realization that — GASP! — it's better to live on the equator than at either poles.
Life of the Party continues McCarthy’s pile-up of ill-conceived star vehicles, including 2014's Tammy and 2016’s The Boss. All three summer killjoys feature the same writing and directing team: McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone. This explains why the talented comic-actress doesn’t find a new creative team, but not why she and Falcone continue writing dreadfully unfunny comedies featuring two-dimensional roles for her — either bad-turned good or good-turned bad — and boilerplates as secondary characters.
Such as the pair of stuck-up co-eds who are too busy judging and making snarky remarks about the age and attire of Deanna to see who this nontraditional student really is. (Never mind that the film does the same thing.) This leads to the inevitable showdown in which Deanna turns those supposed weaknesses into major advantages: in this case, showing off authentically retro dance moves at an '80s-themed fraternity party.
And speaking of fraternities ... what’s supposed to be a one-and-done drunken fling between Deanna and an attractive member of that fraternity, who happens to be the same age as Maddie, turns problematic when he grows too fond of her (and her bedroom abilities).
His college-dude crush, though, gives Deanna newfound confidence and inspires her best-friend-to-the-end (Maya Rudolph, Life of the Party's comedic MVP) to rekindle the romance in her own marriage. Repeatedly. And in awkward places.
And in a hat trick of college comedy cliches, Life of the Party includes a cameo performance by a well-known singer at a fund-raiser college party, the struggle to pass an important classroom test, and the awkward dorm roommate who shows up just enough to remind us that she really is awkward until she’s not.
If the summer film season is a monthslong shindig, then Life of the Party is the turd in the punchbowl.
Contact Kirk Baird at: email@example.com or 419-724-6734.
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