Much like the equally frustrating I Feel Pretty, Life of the Party is built around a strong central performance, capable ensemble, and interesting enough premise, but fails to deliver more than an SNL sketch’s worth of story in nearly two hours of tedium. Melissa McCarthy, a fine actress when she wants to be (and a co-writer here it should be noted), plays Deanna, a mom blindsided by her husband’s request for a divorce who decides to go back to college with her daughter and finally get her degree. Hilarity, one would think, would ensue, but it’s more like a couple laughs and a lot of eye rolls.
McCarthy is like Robin Williams and Will Ferrell, she can do a grounded character with the right director, but her baser instincts are generally to go as manic and zany as possible. Deanna is whatever the scene requires to be, sometimes a stuck in her cat sweater naïve mother, other times an overly confident 80s dancer. Sometimes she’s sweating through her poor fashion choices, others she’s charming and publicly fornicating with a handsome undergrad. These character moments don’t build based on the plot, there is barely a plot, it’s just a random bunch of scenes, some of them worth a chuckle.
The relationship between Deanna and her daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon) is sweet, and actually seems like it could be an interesting exploration, but there is very little the film is interested in exploring. Supporting characters played by Gillian Jacobs, Luke Benward, Julie Bowen, Heidi Gardner, Maya Rudolph, and Chris Parnell all have the potential to be interesting, but they really aren’t. The surprise cameo at the end less surprising than intended as the first mention of this person’s name makes it obvious how the movie will end, only it’s executed so much worse than expected.
Directed by McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone, the film is the third outing for the married duo (after Tammy and the Boss) and it’s clear that you aren’t going to get Bridesmaids-level work (or even Spy-level fun) from McCarthy with Falcone, which is a shame because this could’ve been a fun movie about a mom going back to college, but it felt more like taking a test you studied too much for that was so not worth the effort.
My Grade – D