The wheel of comedy is not re-invented with ‘Life Of The Party’, Melissa McCarthy’s new flick, a rather routine slapstick offering that sends a conservative housewife back to college. That said, it’s McCarthy – and if there are laughs to be had, you’d be hard pressed to find an individual who will deliver them better than her.
So predictable and silly this is a like a throwback to the overly simplistic comedies of the 90’s (playbook = a minimum four laugh-out-loud fall down moments, a standard feel-good finale and, most importantly, at least one celebrity cameo), ‘Life Of The Party’ is brimming with booze-soaked frat parties, pot brownies, sex in the school library….but somehow emerges as harmless. Such is the power of a talent like Melissa McCarthy.
The story has McCarthy’s corny-yet-charming Deanna being dumped by her jerky husband (Matt Walsh) just as her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) is beginning her senior year at Decatur University. Deflated but inspired to put herself first for a change, Deanna decides to return to school to finish her degree in archaeology AND spend some quality time with Maddie. ‘Cause y’know, what university senior WOULDN’T want Mom around for the whole school year??
Sounds like Rodney Dangerfield’s cult classic ‘Back To School’ with genders reversed? Yeah, kinda. But that film was, in hindsight, a two hour Dangerfield stand-up routine with post-secondary education as its backdrop. In ‘Life Of The Party’, the very generous McCarthy (even though she DOES own the film) leaves enough room for some decent supporting turns, including Gillian Jacobs as an adult student who returns to school after spending eight years in a coma (it’s funny, trust me), SNL’s Heidi Gardner as Deanna’s goth roommate, and McCarthy’s old pal Maya Rudolph who, as Deanna’s best friend…….well, she essentially plays Maya Rudolph, which is usually a pretty safe ingredient for good comedy.
Written and directed by Ben Falcone, McCarthy’s husband, ‘Life Of The Party’ isn’t groundbreaking. Heck, you’ll probably barely recall it by the end of summer. But while it IS here to (hopefully) enjoy, it IS a fun sit.