REVIEW: ‘Life of the Party’

Melissa McCarthy is a talented individual but there’s no doubt her track record with movies hasn’t been perfect. As a result, there is only cautious optimism when I walk into one of her features, such as “Life of the Party.” Fortunately, this one was actually a pleasant surprise.

McCarthy’s latest starring role is playing Deanna, a housewife who didn’t finish her college degree and is suddenly met with divorce papers from her husband. As she weighs her options, Deanna sees this life-changing event as an opportunity to go back to college and complete her archaeology degree.

Her path to do so becomes somewhat awkward, though, as Deanna decides to go to the same college as her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon). After some initial reservations, Maddie and her friends soon become happy that Deanna is back and invite her to have some fun during her stay in college.

The whole “back-to-school” concept has been done before, with movies either placing its lead characters in high school or college and letting shenanigans ensue. “Life of the Party” really isn’t that different.

Like other flicks taking place on a university campus, “Life of the Party” features party scenes, moments at sororities and awkward classes. Overall, “Party” is a really generic hour and 45 minutes from a story perspective.

However, the movie can still win a viewer over thanks to the characters on screen and their respective performers. In fact, this is a movie where the supporting cast really outshine the lead.

McCarthy is good here, but it’s the performances of those around her that really give this movie a major boost. Gordon, along with Gillian Jacobs, Adria Arjona, Heidi Gardner and Jessie Ennis portray Deanna’s classmates and they all knock it out of the park. Each of their characters have their own quirks and these actresses all make it work. Their chemistry is apparent and their comedic timing is really on point.

The same could be said for Maya Rudolph, who portrays Deanna’s best friend Christine. Rudolph has some great sequences in the film, especially during a divorce mediation where her character assumes the role of McCarthy’s lawyer. She puts a ton of energy into the performance, despite not having a ton of screen time, and it pays off.

As for the comedy itself, most of the humor that really lands is all based around character interactions and banter. For the most part, save for one moment when a wedding reception room is trashed by the main characters, the slapstick humor isn’t all that great. However, the scenes where the characters are interacting, such as Deana speaking with her classmates about their degrees or her arguing with her ex-husband with help from Christine, are where the funniest moments come in.

“Life of the Party” isn’t the best comedy, in fact it has its fair share of flaws. However, there was some solid dialogue here and the supporting cast really completes things. Enthusiastic 2.9 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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