Life of the Party
Director: Ben Falcone
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Gillian Jacobs, Debby Ryan, Adria Arjona, Molly Gordon, Luke Benward, and Maya Rudolph
Nearly every college dorm room, way back when I wandered the campus, had two posters; the John Belushi “Animal House” poster with the “college” sweater or the poster for the movie “Old School”. Higher education comedies have been around since the early days of cinema, the Marx Brothers tackled the topic with the film “Horse Feathers” in 1932 and it seems like nearly every year since the early 1990’s we have seen a school comedy in the multiplex.
“Life of the Party” is the latest, and one the tamest, college comedies to come around in some time. Most of these specific school comedies fall into the realm of raunchy subject matter with heavy levels of explicit language. And the storylines either follow a group of underdogs in some capacity fighting against the college elite or follow a character who is on the verge of getting kicked out of school. It’s seldom the stories that make these college comedies memorable but rather the way the stories compose the reality, ordinary or outlandish, of the college experience. “Life of the Party” unfortunately takes the most basic characteristics of the college comedy, throwing in a lively Melissa McCarthy to make the most of it all.
Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) is a college dropout, mother of a college senior (Molly Gordon), and recently divorced. She regrets never finishing her degree, archeology, and decides to enroll to finish. Deanna, now going to school with her daughter, utilizes this return to campus to sow some stowed away wild oats. She goes to big parties, dance battles some bullies, and finds herself a young man to get romantic with.
Everything college movies have taught viewers over the years is on display in “Life of the Party”. The familiar college “fish out of water” storyline, the comedy setups like a wild party that ends with regrets of too much alcohol, and the obvious bullies that try to stall the progress of our protagonist throughout her journey. While the similarity to other films is immediately recognizable it’s not the problem, it’s the execution of themes that sours the experience.
Melissa McCarthy’s character is the underdog throughout the film, but her journey throughout the different college triumphs and trials are never given the attention in order for them to really mean anything pertinent for the character. Most of the young people accept her without question, the mean girls are never really that threatening, and the actual reason she returns to college in the first place is given one scene that may cause a minimal amount of distress for her journey towards the final goal. The stakes aren’t high enough, but even this could be overlooked if the film executed the comedic aspects better. Unfortunately, even though Melissa McCarthy completely owns the character, the funny parts rarely hit like they should. With the exception of one scene that absolutely killed, to the point that it was really difficult to hear the jokes that followed the big punchline because of the laughter, the other jokes were simply unmemorable.
“Life of the Party” survives because of Melissa McCarthy. The actress works overtime to make the most of the character and the jokes throughout the film. Unfortunately the familiar angles and timid comedy keep this film from becoming the new poster for the college dorm room.
2.00 out of 5.00