Melissa McCarthy makes me laugh. Her shtick as a frumpy woman who blossoms under unusual circumstances always entertains. Life of the Party has McCarthy going back to college after a surprise divorce. Its an empowerment story with enough laughs to avoid sappiness. She wrote the film with her husband Ben Falcone (Tammy,The Boss); who also directs. Audiences may not know his name, but will surely recognize him from his hilarious cameos in their films. The pair are on cruise control with Life of the Party.
Melissa McCarthy stars as Deanna Miles, a housewife who gets dumped when she drops her daughter (Molly Gordon) off to her senior year at college. Deanna languishes for a bit, then decides to take back her life. She's going back to school to finish her degree. The rub is that her daughter attends her alma mater. Deanna embraces her second chance with gusto, winning over her daughter's sorority sisters and the heart of a campus hunk (Luke Benward).
Life of the Party has a few twists that are absolutely hilarious. These curveballs are well placed, providing an infusion of laughter when the story lags. We've seen the back to school plot before, but maybe not with this much heart. Deanna's daughter is initially horrified to have her mother around, but changes her tune quickly. She loves her mother dearly, providing unconditional support with the help of her sorority. The fantastic Maya Rudolph is also a standout as Deanna's best friend. The female ensemble in Life of the Party is quite endearing. The ladies take care of each other. Its borderline cheesy, but really adds a positive note to the film.
Life of the Party cleverly works the PG-13 rating. Most films of this ilk have men at the center with raunchy overabundance. There's alcohol, partying, drugs, and sex, but none of it is tawdry or salacious. Falcone and McCarthy aren't going for an Animal House or American Pie vibe. The harder stuff is alluded to, but never shown. This approach fits into the empowerment mantra of the film. The underlying message is never upstaged.
The ending of the film is overblown and unnecessary. It's an out of left field finale that wasn't needed. There's choppiness to the script, but it did flow within the context of the premise. The big ending hits, and the goodwill established crumbles. For ninety-minutes Life of the Party rolls smoothly, then it goes Hollywood and becomes generic. It bugs the hell out of me when movies do this. There's never a reason to suddenly bring something out of the blue to end your story. It implies a lack of confidence in the script. McCarthy and Falcone know how to tickle your funny bone. They just need to sharpen their storytelling to reach a higher level of filmmaking.
From Warner Bros., Life of the Party is a good respite from the superheroes dominating the box office. Melissa McCarthy is a brilliant comedienne in her wheelhouse. Life of the Party doesn't reach the lofty heights of Bridesmaids or The Heat, but will certainly have you laughing out loud.