Life of the Party (I) (2018)
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I love Melissa McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, who co wrote the movie, but this was a miss. Want to laugh during a McCarthy movie? Try The Heat, Spy, Bridesmaids or The Boss. This film wasn't as bad as Tammy, another movie I really wanted to like, but it was disappointing.
Having said that, when you have to go to school at the same time your children ...and maybe attend the same one, that too opens up the comedy gates. In fact, Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield is an underrated comedy that understands the awkwardness of a father/son team up and of how Dangerfield's eccentric behavior made him popular rather then an outcast. That's what's beautiful about college movies; they can be unpredictable and thus open all kinds of possibilities. So with the idea of Life of the Party doing something similar, you'd hope for something funny, right?
Homemaker mom Deanna Miles (Played by Melissa McCarthy) is sending off her daughter Maddie (played by Molly Gordon) for her senior year in school. Just as their leaving, Deanna's husband Dan asks for a divorce. This also leads her into losing her home and forcing her to stay at her parents place. Sensing that she needs a bigger change and a new direction, she decides to return to college as she gave up her last year to raise her daughter. Her decision to go back to her alma mater, which is also Maddie's school, isn't her daughter's favorite choice, but supports her mother to let it slide.
Deanna studies away to get her degree in Archeology, while also being reintroduced to the world of college, which includes frat parties, hookups in the library and dealing with an odd roommate. After she's given a makeover from her daughter, Deanna starts to become more popular on campus. This goes as far as getting her enducted into her daughters sorority. Deanna seems to have a lot of goals in mind including helping everyone, becoming a teacher, and spiting her ex husband.
While Back to School took advantage of Rodney Dangerfield's character and set a clear goal, Life of the Party seems to be lacking a clear goal and a relatable character. Melissa McCarthy is a talented woman, but she is someone who benefits from good direction and a good script. Director Ben Falcone seems to be focused on the mother/daughter aspect, which can work, but not only takes the predictable route, but doesn't create much contrast between them. Again, comedy only works when you can make some good contrast. You can't have both be the straight woman. Why couldn't her daughter be more of a satire on Millennials or why not let Melissa McCarthy be more on a living-in-the-past mom?
I'll admit that I did laugh at a couple of jokes: mainly the ones involving her daughter's sorority sisters. Many of these young woman all have good timing and know how to play off of each other. I think I would have preferred to get a movie around them. Melessia McCarthy is trying, but seems to be in her own movie. I can't say that it's really bad, but it's just very bland and a repeat of college tropes. Plus, it runs too long without much of a plot other then graduating.
I'll give this four college dorm dry eraser boards out of ten. Like a lot of bad comedies that focuses on the same clichés, this is another autopilot movie. It may have fans whose never seen these kinds of movies, but Back to School is a way better version of this story. Life of the Party makes me want to attend someone else's party.
Melissa McCarthy does provide good energy with her positive confidence but it is not enough to carry such a half-baked project. Improvisation can be a wonderful technique for comedy but when a film seems to have improvised its entire production, it comes across as unprofessional and lazy. Ideas, characters and plot points enter and exit this movie with such carelessness that everything ends up feelings like nothing. Sporadic funny moments are nice but do not offset how insulting this whole experience is. Life of the Party is a dump of a film and a waste of time.
Writing: 1/10 Direction: 1/10 Cinematography: 3/10 Acting: 3/10 Editing: 1/10 Sound: 5/10 Score/Soundtrack: 5/10 Production Design: 3/10 Casting: 3/10 Effects: 4/10
Overall Score: 2.9/10
It was like a 2 hour episode of fuller house that wanted to be Back to School, but had the comedic value of the most embarrassing sitcoms of all time.
The story everyone is saying is so Touching, is actually absurdly simple minded, and flat out dull. I guess if 50 years olds sleeping with kids that turn out to be their ex husbands new wive's son, is inspirational to you... than have at it.
This movie is so incredibly stupid and unfunny that I actually felt shameful that I dedicated the time and effort to sitting all the way through it.
Thanks movie pass, for lowering my standards so bad that I'll virtually sit through anything now to find a reason to have theater popcorn on a day off...
Good lord... avoid this turd. It's awful.
It reminded me of the show Brian and James wood wrote on family guy minus the monkey.
They are great together when they are acting in movies and I think it is wonderful that a couple can work together so well.
However, I am starting to see a pattern emerging. Every time Ben Falcone has something to do with the writing or directing of a movie that Melissa McCarthy is in it seems to end up being a real stinker of a movie.
Just a coincidence? I hope so.
Melissa McCarthy has become an actress whose films remain consistently inconsistent. She's had some that she's knocked out of the park, such as Spy. But more often than not her movies often fall just short of being truly great (and sometimes even just good). In 'Life of the Party', she plays a caricature of the typical mom. She laughs at bad jokes, wears gaudy clothes, can't read a room, and is just embarrassing for no reason whatsoever. Her character is going back to college to finish up her senior year and earn her degree. The twist? Well, it just so happens to be her daughter's senior year as well. It's a premise that would have made a fun ongoing Saturday Night Live skit, but after nearly two hours of it all I felt was a sickening amount of second-hand shame for most of the characters involved.
As much as McCarthy tries to lead the ensemble cast onwards and upwards in 'Life of the Party', it was Gillian Jacobs that stole the show. I loved her character in 'Community,' which centered on non-traditional students in college. So, this transition to a character known as "coma girl" who wakes after an 8-year coma to head back to college was a natural progression for her. Honestly, the premise of her character seemed like it would have made for a better movie than 'Life of the Party'. Her sarcastic attitude, optimism, and lingering cognitive impairment was absolutely delightful and managed to keep a number of the scenes afloat. If nothing else, 'Life of the Party' confirmed that Jacobs is an actress we need much, MUCH more of in the future.
'Life of the Party' continues a pleasant trend we've seen in theaters lately with a strong focus on women characters and the twists that they can bring to cliched comedy tropes. 'Blockers' showed the girl perspective of high school with wild and out seniors trying to have the best prom ever to the chagrin of their parents. 'Thoroughbreds' showed that girls can handle the dark buddy comedy just as easily (and perhaps even better) than most guys can. 'Life of the Party' tries to bring that same enlightenment to the college party flick. In a lot of ways, it manages to make it work through the supporting characters. However, McCarthy is a bit too loud and obnoxious throughout the movie to really let it get good enough footing in order to voice its message. That isn't to say that she isn't funny at certain parts. The part where she suffers from severe stage fright during an oral presentation was delightful. These scenes though are few and far between.
I'll admit that the humor that is predominantly used in the film isn't my cup of tea. I've never been a fan of just watching characters consistently embarrass themselves through their journey for no other reason than a few cheap laughs. 'Life of the Party' fails though not because the scenes aren't funny at times, but because the characters never grow from their embarrassing moments. McCarthy never comes around and undergoes the growth that shows the whole journey and all of its hardships were for the best and made her a better person for it. That's because she starts off as a good person, just one that makes you incredibly uncomfortable at times. Things would have been so much better if she had gone from a meek and submissive housewife suffering from years of passive aggressive abuse from a dick of an ex-husband to a strong, confident, and independent woman. This transition though happens after a trip to the bathroom and a quick makeover twenty minutes into the film, leaving nothing for the next hour and a half to do but poke around at various cliches.
I'm sure that lots of people are thinking that 'Life of the Party' is a great excuse to take their mom to the theaters this Sunday. Personally, I don't have the kind of relationship with my mother where I can comfortably laugh at jokes like "va-google" or scenes where a 40 something-year-old repeatedly has sex with a student less than half her age (same goes for male characters in similar situations). It feels too much like 'Life of the Party' has a checklist of college movie tropes that it needed to get through. College rival? Check. Weird roommate? Check. 80's party? Check. So on and so forth. It's not the worst comedy I've seen this year, but it's forgettable one at best. You're better off taking mom to see Infinity War instead this weekend. I'm sure she'll appreciate the 3-Chris' much more than any of McCarthy's jokes.
McCarthy plays Deanna, a sweet suburban mom whose only child, Maddie (Molly Gordon), is starting her senior year in college. Immediately after Deanna and her husband, Dan (Matt Walsh), drop off Maddie at her sorority house, Dan tells Deanna that he wants a divorce so he can marry his mistress (Emmy winner Julie Bowen). All of this comes as a complete shock to Deanna who leans on her parents (Stephen Root and Oscar and Golden Globe nominee Jacki Weaver) and her best friend (Maya Rudolph). Deanna bemoans the years wasted in her marriage, which included her dropping out of college (because she was pregnant with Maddie) a year before earning her archaeology degree. But then she has an idea.
Deanna re-enrolls in her old college for her senior year, which makes her classmates with her daughter. Maddie has mixed emotions, especially when Deanna starts hanging out at Maddie's sorority house, but Maddie's friends really like having Deanna around and Maddie goes along with it. All of this opens the door for Deanna to go to college parties, sleep with college guys (well, one guy), encourage her creepy roommate (Heidi Gardner) to be less creepy and help Maddie's friends figure out their lives, including inspiring Maddie's academically challenged friend (Gillian Jacobs) to make archaeology her major too. As all this happens, a couple mean-girl college classmates, the divorce proceedings and Dan's impending remarriage become growing sources of frustration for Deanna (or Dee-Rock, as her classmates call her).
"Life of the Party" is an unfunny, unprofessional mess. The movie's premise has potential, but lazy writing gives us precious few good jokes and the dialog and plot points have most characters speaking and acting in ways that don't make sense, even in a silly comedy. Meanwhile, amateurish directing puts too much of the burden on McCarthy to make "lemons out of lemonade" (one of the movie's so-called jokes). The acting isn't much better. McCarthy is fine, but almost everyone else has smiles glued on their faces (even at times most normal people would be frowning) in a desperate attempt to convince us they're having a good time, so we should too. I hope McCarthy and Falcone have a long, happy marriage, but it would be nice if their professional partnership would stop making the rest of us so unhappy. Creatively, they're now 0-3. There's simply no life in this party. "D"
Written by Melissa McCarthy and her husband (who directs it), this comedy treads fairly familiar ground. It's not unfunny (though nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is), and has an identifiable emotional core.
I found the suggestion that hot student Jack (who looks like a cross between Harry Potter if he was normal height, and Jake Gyllenhaal) would become sexually besotted by short, portly forty-something Deanna strained my credibility somewhat, but it worked fairly well as a comedy dynamic.
The final fund-raising payoff was also a tad unconvincing, but never mind.
This is a time-passer, nothing more.