…BUT THERE’S NO PARTY
Movie Review – Life of the Party
Life of the Party is yet another comedy leaning way too much on Melissa McCarthy’s ability to do something interesting, rather than offering up a script full of funny moments and characters. The story revolves around McCarthy’s Deanna, deciding to go back to college to finish earning her degree after getting divorced by her husband Dan (Matt Walsh). At one point, Deanna has to give a speech to her entire anthropology class, but succumbs to stage fright. It’s at this point on set where director (and McCarthy’s husband) Ben Falcone must’ve said, “OK, we have nothing here, so just do some outrageous stuff and that’ll be good enough”. What follows is McCarthy trying her ass off to entertain, working really hard to layer on the bits, hoping one of them works. It’s an agonizing five or ten minutes (literally). Unfortunately, it’s also a microcosm of the entire movie.
Falcone and McCarthy showed a great working relationship in 2011’s Bridesmaids, when Falcone played an air marshall who gets a face full of attention and awkward sexiness from McCarthy on a flight to Vegas. But since those scenes, the Falcone/McCarthy tag team projects (this, The Boss and Tammy) have been the least inspired of McCarthy’s total work. There doesn’t seem to be a director out there who can tap into McCarthy’s mad genius quite like Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy and Ghostbusters (2016).
There are just too many empty moments in Life of the Party. The college Deanna returns to now has her daughter attending as well, so Deanna joins her sorority. There’s a scene early on where Deanna crashes the sorority house unexpectedly (bearing pastries) and there are no laughs. None. Deanna acts silly, prattles on about things college girls don’t understand, but if you took that scene and really examined it – nothing happens. Not plot movement, and not laughs. They just sat McCarthy in front of a bunch of young actors and said, “be funny”. As hilarious as McCarthy can be (one of her Sean Spicer sketches on SNL are funnier than this entire movie), there needs to be a solid base in the script from which to launch her brilliance.
On the heels of I Feel Pretty, I feel bad slamming another female-led comedy (McCarthy and Amy Schumer fared better in 2015 with Spy and Trainwreck). But women are the only actors MAKING comedies these days. At least, as the leads. Movies like Game Night and Blockers I consider ensemble comedies. I was very intrigued by the role-reversal of the Overboard remake, but the reviews and a less-then-thrilling trailer scared me away. Maybe Love, Simon is the only male-led comedy as of late? Dramedy? And don’t expect to see men leading any comedies this summer, either, they’re reserving themselves for testosterone-led action only, all the way through August. Women will be the only ones providing ha-has with Ocean’s 8, Book Club, Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Againand The Spy Who Dumped Me.
Speaking of role-reversal, when we next see Melissa McCarthy, she will be in drama mode as a failed author and accused forger in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which looks really fascinating. She’s mixing things up a bit. Unfortunately, she returns to another Ben Falcone comedy after this, where I would hope she’d keep…mixing things up.
I’ll close by returning to I Feel Pretty. I wasn’t very kind to that movie which was one of those films that wasn’t good in terms of structure, pacing, etc., but it had laughs. I used the sentence “This is not a great movie, but the zeal with which Schumer jumps into Renee, asking us to root for her, is contagious.” I think this is very accurate, but all people seem to be reading is “This is not a great movie”. Well, compared to Life of the Party, I Feel Pretty is Blazing Saddles, so I’m going to actually go back into that original review and praise it more for the risks it took. That’s right, Life of the Party is making me rethink other movies. I wish that was said in a good way.
Directed by: Ben Falcone
Release Date: May 11, 2018
Run Time: 105 Minutes
Distributor: New Line Cinema/Warner Brothers