'Life of the Party' Review

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Melissa McCarthy goes back to school in her latest comedy “Life of the Party”, which was filmed almost two years ago. She plays Deanna, a bubbly mom who joins her husband Dan in dropping off their daughter Maddie to her senior year of college. As they start to drive away, Dan informs Deanna he wants a divorce.

The opening stretch of the film plays-out like an emotional family drama – completely laugh-less. And then come a few antics that are featured in the trailers and commercials. “Life of the Party” is another classic case of a comedy that puts its best stuff in the promos, while the actual film provides very few funny or memorable scenes.

You’d think Deanna deciding to go back to get her archaeology degree and enrolling in the same college as her daughter would provide some hilarious material right out of the gate. But it just doesn’t, specifically because mother and daughter are simply too nice to each other. So then you hoping “Life of the Party” will take off when Maddie decides to make her mom feel young again with a complete 180 make-over. Wrong again.

Cast of 'Life of the Party'
Cast of 'Life of the Party'

Outside of a few McCarthy moments, Maya Rudolph, as Deanna’s friend Christine, is the only one in the cast who adds energy. I came to the conclusion towards the end of “Life of the Party” that if McCarthy and Rudolph made a movie where they just sit on a bench and talk for 90 minutes it would be a lot funnier than what they made here.

The main problem? This is the third time McCarthy has starred in a comedy that she’s co-written with husband Ben Falcone, who also serves as director. 2014’s “Tammy” and 2016’s “The Boss” both had passable concepts but disappointing results. And with “Life of the Party” they’ve hit the trifecta. This script is uneven and inconsistent. For example, at one point the extremely chatty, outgoing Deanna becomes mortified by public speaking. What? You don’t change a character’s established persona simply to fit a scene later in the film.

When others write her material, as with “Bridesmaids”, “Spy” and “St. Vincent”, McCarthy shines. She’s without a doubt one of the funniest and most likable actresses in Hollywood. It’s clear the time has come for her to play to her strengths – and put down the pen.

We’ll see a different side of McCarthy in the drama “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, opening in October. This looks to be a game-changer for someone who really needs and deserves it.

Jackson Murphy: Emmy Award-winning Film Critic / Entertainment Reporter. Broadcast Film Critics Assoc. (@CriticsChoice), SAG-AFTRA (@SAGAwards)