Film Review – Life of the Party (2018)
If you need a woman lead for your studio comedy, odds are you turn to Melissa McCarthy. Ever since her breakout role in Bridesmaids back in 2011, McCarthy has earned plenty of starring vehicles, including her latest film Life of the Party. But, the film isn’t just another comedy with McCarthy receiving top billing, it’s her third team-up with her writer/director (and husband) Ben Falcone. However, judging by the final results of the film (and their previous track record together), the pair might want to stop working together for a while.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Ben Falcone
Written By: Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy
Shortly after dropping her daughter (Gordon) off for her senior year of college, Deanna (McCarthy) quickly learns that her husband wants a divorce. Upset and without a career path in place, Deanna has no idea what to do — she never finished college — and she’s quickly running out of money.
But, with some financial assistance, Deanna decides to go back to school and finish her degree in archeology, hoping to forget her husband and start a new chapter in her life. There’s just one problem — she’s going to the same college as her daughter.
As mentioned previously, Life of the Party is the third collaboration between Melissa McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone with Falcone acting as the director (you may remember him as Air Marshall Jon in Bridesmaids). One would think that a husband and wife writing team would lead to great success since the two must work well together, right?
In this case, not exactly.
Falcone’s directing career began with Tammy in 2014 which currently holds a 24% on Rotten Tomatoes. Next, Falcone and McCarthy worked on The Boss. That movie has an RT score of 22%. Obviously, Rotten Tomatoes isn’t the be-all-end-all for film criticism (let’s not open that can that worms), but it does suggest that these movies are missing…something.
That being said, Falcone and McCarthy are still working, and they’re clearly trying to make their on-screen partnership work. After two R-rated comedies, Life of the Party is PG-13, so maybe they’re trying to find a new avenue for their comedy.
Either way, it doesn’t look like this union will stop making films any time soon as they’re currently working on another project together that’s in pre-production.
Maya Rudolph is a National Treasure
It’s no secret that Maya Rudolph is one of the funnier people working in Hollywood today, and Life of the Party is lucky to have her. She always adds her signature freak-out moments to her films where she holds nothing back in the name of comedy, and her role in Life of the Party is no different.
Jealous of McCarthy’s character for getting to relive her college years and party it up with young men that find her attractive, Rudolph’s character lives vicariously through McCarthy’s, and she slowly gets more and more into it as the film progresses. What starts as a cute, little fascination with some short outbursts of insanity turns into all-out chaos by the end of the film, and it’s always funny to watch Rudolph lose her mind onscreen. She clearly loves acting like a lunatic, and that feeling is incredibly infectious.
Life of the Party is lucky to have her, and so are we.
Life of the Party Wastes Melissa McCarthy
Other than Maya Rudolph, however, Life of the Party struggles mightily to land jokes.
Melissa McCarthy is one of the more talented comedic actresses working today. In fact, she’s so funny that many directors — including her husband — think it’s enough to just point the camera in her direction and let her improvise to her heart’s content. In the case of Life of the Party, that work arrangement is nowhere near enough to pass as quality entertainment.
McCarthy squeezes by on occasion and elevates the poor writing in Life of the Party purely on her charm (the best example of which is during an oral presentation that McCarthy has to give to her class). However, for the most part, McCarthy’s character is downright irritating. As a moderately out-of-touch mom that is out of her element in college, she constantly rambles on about anything and everything. To put it bluntly, she never stops talking. Unusually verbose characters work in film all the time, but McCarthy’s character consistently fails to say anything funny, and her constant chatter becomes nauseating rather quickly.
I don’t blame McCarthy for this issue — she’s clearly spinning her wheels to try to create some humor out of painfully unfunny scenarios with actors that just aren’t talented enough to join her at her level of comedy. Everything goes back to Falcone who directs Life of the Party without any personality or ingenuity, forcing McCarthy to work overtime and without pause.
Life of the Party Fails to Create Conflict
But, Life of the Party‘s fails even further to create a narrative. Realistically, there’s no conflict or hardship for McCarthy’s character. After handling her divorce, she goes back to school where, aside from a few minor scuffles between her and a snooty girl played by Debby Ryan, she has no problems that have lingering effects on her as a character. Her daughter and her friends take her in almost immediately and giver her a group of friends. She’s even the best student in her class from the start. Any issues that arise in Life of the Party are patched up within minutes.
Nothing forces McCarthy’s character to grow or change (aside from a makeover that takes about thirty seconds). Every bit of entertainment that comes from Life of the Party has to come out of the comedy as a result, which — as I mentioned previously — fails on a spectacular level.
Worst of all, the film wastes Gillian Jacobs. C’mon movie!
Melissa McCarthy will always be a fantastic talent in the film industry, but her husband just doesn’t quite know how to use her to her fullest capabilities. Ben Falcone simply points the camera at McCarthy, hoping that her random actions will come together in editing as funny sequences. Spoiler alert: they don’t, and if not for the lovely Maya Rudolph, Life of the Party may have ended up on my personal top 10 worst movies of 2018 list.
Life of the Party has good intentions that may be more than enough for the correct moviegoing demographic, but — for everyone else — this comedy is woefully short on laughs.
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