The film is very much in line with McCarthy's previous collaborations with her writer/director husband Ben Falcone in terms of style, yet its strengths outweigh its flaws at the end of the day. Deanna languishes for a bit, then decides to take back her life.
Maddie knows what her mom sacrificed for her and certainly knows her dad (Matt Walsh) is the villain in the divorce.
On a positive note, most of this has been forgotten by the time the main plot rolls around: Deanna never finished college, but now has chose to do just that, and won't it be great to share the campus with her daughter! McCarthy is such a gifted physical comedian that the film is a delight just watching her elevate the material single-handedly. And yet, for some reason, the movies they write together - "Tammy" (2014) and "The Boss" (2016) - are never as amusing as the ones she does with Paul Feig - "Bridesmaids" (2009),"The Heat" (2013) and "Spy" (2015). It's a comedy that tries to be amusing - it's not - and has most of its characters standing around waiting for someone to deliver a line so they in turn can deliver their own line. It doesn't help that the character bares similarities to the work McCarthy did in "Spy" only three years ago.
Falcone is likewise a step down from Feig behind the camera, but his directing has improved since he made his feature debut on Tammy. "Life of the Party" presents a situation more than a story, and in that it's more like a sitcom than a conventional movie. Falcone, reuniting with The Boss cinematographer Julio Macat, shoots the film in a clean, if bland, fashion and serves up some good visual gags along the way, but for the most part Life of the Party coasts by on the strengths of its cast.
Melissa recently appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and publicly apologised for dragging Lopez around the room, but Jennifer insisted she had an "awesome" time with the Bridesmaids actress as they were brought together again on New York-based breakfast show Today on Wednesday (09May18).
McCarthy plays Deanna as unflaggingly earnest and chipper - she buys a wardrobe of school-brand apparel and fan gear, which she wears as she walks across campus high-fiving fellow students who are alternately confused and charmed by her throwback optimism and spirit. So "Life of the Party" gets better as it goes along. The movie certainly doesn't push the envelope as far as it could in this respect, much less dive all that deeply into the questions it raises about how motherhood impacts a person's sense of identity, a la the way last week's Tully does. There's enough that it's not unrealistically ignoring that issue (I mean, couldn't Deanna have waited one more year to enroll?) but the focus is on positivity and support.
If I'm being honest, Life Of The Party is a weird title for Melissa McCarthy's latest comedy; her character, Midwestern housewife turned middle-aged college senior Deanna Miles, is a little too nervous and self-conscious to ever really dominate a campus rager the way that phrase implies. It's not a film that needs to be seen on the big screen, but Life of the Party is more light-hearted and jovial than most other movies playing in theaters right now (independent and big-budget films alike) and should please the steadfast members of McCarthy's fanbase. Sure, it'd be nice to have a free senior year but empowering her mother is more important.
Life of the Party begins playing in USA theaters nationwide tonight on Thursday, May 10. There's alcohol, partying, drugs, and sex, but none of it is tawdry or salacious.
Let us know what you thought of the film in the comments section!