Life of the Party (2018)
Directed by: Ben Falcone
Premise: A forty-something woman (Melissa McCarthy) on the rebound from a divorce enrolls at the same college her daughter is attending.
What Works: Most of the highlights of Life of the Party come from the supporting cast. Heidi Gardener plays the goth roommate of Melissa McCarthy’s character and Gardener has a terrifically off kilter comic delivery. Molly Gordon plays the daughter and she manages to carve out a place for herself in the story despite the fact that the movie hardly gives Gordon anything to do. Jessie Ennis, Adria Arjona, and Gillian Jacobs round out the core cast of sorority sisters and they all manage to be distinct characters. A different film about these women completing their final year of college would have been a much more interesting movie.
What Doesn’t: Life of the Party is a gender swapped rip-off of the Rodney Dangerfield movie Back to School. Just as in the 1986 film, a parent discovers her marriage is a sham and she enrolls in college alongside her daughter and together they get into wacky misadventures. But unlike Back to School, Life of the Party is a mess. At best, the comedy is hit or miss. At worst it is so bad as to make your toes curl. A few of the jokes land but many of them don’t and there are so many lame comic bits that the movie actually inspires pity for the young actors. There isn’t much of a story here. That’s one of the major differences between Life of the Party and Back to School. The Rodney Dangerfield movie took advantage of its premise and had fun with the college setting and found humor in everything from class registration to textbook purchases to colorful professors. It also had a coherent narrative with engaging characters who learned something about themselves over the course of the story. Life of the Party tries to do some of that but it utterly fails. Part of that failure is due to the movie’s disinterest in its own premise. There is nothing clever or relevant about college in this movie. The film’s failure is also due to its slapdash organization. Life of the Party isn’t working toward anything. It’s just a bunch of scenes randomly flung together. And a lot of scenes lack any shape or comic rhythm. The tone whiplashes between crude humor in one moment and sentimental waterworks the next. There is an incessant repetition of scenes of the mother and daughter exchanging “I love you” moments. The mother-daughter relationship is botched. The family is going through a divorce but the filmmakers skip over the implications of that especially on the daughter’s part in a way that makes the mother appear to be totally self-absorbed. And that gets to the central problem with this movie. Life of the Party is a vehicle for Melissa McCarthy and while the actress can be very funny she also has to be reined in. But Life of the Party is directed by Ben Falcone, who also co-wrote the script with McCarthy. Falcone is a terrible filmmaker who is responsible for some of McCarthy’s worst projects including Tammy and The Boss. Falcone and McCarthy, who are husband and wife, amplify each other’s worst tendencies. The result is a movie that is too long and frequently obnoxious.
Bottom Line: Life of the Party is another failed collaboration between Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone. The film approaches its derivative premise with little imagination and its attempts at comedy are anemic at best.
Episode: #599 (May 20, 2018)