18 May 2018 | RforFilm
Even with Melissa McCarthy and the cast trying, Life of the Party feels like a blander and more boing Back to School
You know what is funny? Children going into the adult world and not knowing what to do. You know what's also funny? Adults returning to a youthful place and seeing that they're not hip. Many college movies don't show this, but there are always a fair amount of older adults that have returned to school. I think theirs an image that if someone has to return to school or even start later in life, then their a failure. A long with being completely untrue, Returning to school can actually give you a better understanding where things are economically and reinforce the notion that we never stop learning.
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.