Melissa McCarthy dances with agility and sometimes makes potentially off-putting characters sympathetic. Unfortunately, left to their own devices, she and her director-husband Ben Falcone have difficulty coming up with enough material to fill a feature film.
It has been 32 years, so maybe it's OK if McCarthy and Falcone feel like remaking Back to School, which had a middle-aged Rodney Dangerfield returning to college despite his son's wariness.
Life of the Party
77 Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Gillian Jacobs, Debby Ryan, Adria Arjona, Julie Bowen, Stephen Root, Jacki Weaver, Matt Walsh, Luke Benward, Maya Rudolph, Sarah Baker, Molly Gordon, Jacki Weaver
Director: Ben Falcone
Rating: PG-13, for sexual material, drug content and partying
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
It has been more than a generation and changing the sex of the protagonists offers some fresh insights into aging and the nature of wisdom, as well as new jokes about, um, different parts of the body.
McCarthy and Falcone have also produced Life of the Party and to their credit have assembled an able supporting cast. They should have hired some additional screenwriters to make the story move instead of lumber from gag to gag.
It's tempting to wonder if the greenlight for Life of the Party came after reading the first 15 pages of the script. If that's the case, the other producers have apparently handled their duties like college students who've crammed for a final on Shakespeare without getting through the final act of Macbeth.
As Deanna (McCarthy) sees her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) off for her senior year in college, her husband Dan (Matt Walsh) announces he's dumping Deanna and kicking her out at the behest of his new real estate agent girlfriend.
Having spent her entire adult life as a housewife, Deanna decides it's time to finally complete her degree in archaeology. Having left school to raise Maddie, the decision makes sense, especially because dorm life is preferable to living with her bickering parents (Jacki Weaver, Stephen Root, stealing the show in the few scenes they occupy).
As with Dangerfield before her, McCarthy has plenty of chance to enjoy college rituals such as chemical recreation and attractive young lovers. Unlike the man who got no respect, McCarthy is a an able physical comic who can get the most out of a pratfall, one drink too many or a dance off with a younger woman who simply doesn't have her moves.
Nonetheless, by following in Dangerfield's well-worn footsteps, much of what happens in Life of the Party is unsurprising. Plot developments neither amaze nor amuse if they are advertised.
Falcone and McCarthy do create a few amusing peripheral characters including Saturday Night Live's Heidi Gardner as Deanna's Goth roommate who never seems to leave the room, or sleep. Fellow SNL alumna Maya Rudolph is a riot as Deanna's overly supportive best friend, but the members of Maddie's sorority seem to have only one trait each, making it difficult for them to make much of an impression.
MovieStyle on 05/11/2018
Print Headline: Party pooper