Sunday, May 20, 2018

Movie Review: "Life of the Party" (2018)

Director: Ben Falcone
Year: 2018
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

After her husband leaves her for another woman, Deanna decides to join her daughter in college and finish her senior year at her alma matter to get the degree she gave up to be a wife and mother. 
"Once a dighead, always a dighead."" (Image Source)
A middle-aged parent goes "Back to School" alongside their college-aged child after discovering their spouse has been unfaithful. Why does this going "Back to School" scenario sound so familiar? "Life of the Party" is directed by Ben Falcone, who also wrote the film along with his wife and star of the movie Melissa McCarthy. Falcone has directed two McCarthy-led flicks in the past, "Tammy" and "The Boss." We think it's safe to say they don't have a stellar track record with their collaborations. McCarthy plays Deanna, a middle-aged stereotypical mom who wears horrible sweaters, awful headbands, and rhinestone-studded smocks. She and her husband Dan (Matt Walsh) have just dropped their daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) off at her sorority house for her senior year of college. On the way home, Dan informs Deanna that he is in love with someone else and wants a divorce. She understandably flips out but comes to the decision that now is the time for her to finally go back to school and finish college so she can get the archeology degree she gave up to become a wife and mother. Of course, this means she gets to have the whole college experience including raucous parties, weed brownies, and sex with frat guys less than half her age. 
"This is a bonafide shitshow." (Image Source)
"Cringe-worthy" is probably the best word we can use to accurately describe the comedy found in "Life of the Party." We cringed so hard and gritted our teeth so tightly and so frequently that we're lucky we didn't chip any teeth. We like Melissa McCarthy, but there's no denying that she's made a name for herself playing a small, unvaried selection of characters. The first character she always plays is the frumpy and stereotypical mom. The second is the sexy cougar. The third is the wild and crass party gal. In this film, she plays a mix of all three of these tried and true characters based on what each scene calls for at the moment. Because of this, we never get a true sense of what Deanna's personality actually is. One moment sees her loudly proclaiming embarrassing anecdotes while wearing the tackiest clothing without shame. Later in the movie, she seems to have a deadly fear of public speaking and freaks out when she has to give an oral presentation as part of her midterm. Immediately after this meltdown, she makes a very public scene at a restaurant full of innuendos and cursing. Midway through the movie, she has sex in a myriad of public places.

The disjointedness of McCarthy's character might have been forgivable if we were laughing hard enough that we didn't notice how sloppily the screenplay is written. Unfortunately, we were rarely ever laughing. It's also evident that Ben Falcone pretty much lets McCarthy do whatever she wants. She gets to riff and ad-lib to her heart's content, and when the movie is done shooting, Falcone has to hope to the comedy gods that something they filmed was funny enough to add into the film. Everything and everyone else takes a backseat to McCarthy's shenanigans. When a character who's only in the flick for about ten minutes is the best thing about it, you know you're in trouble.
"I'm not paddling my mom." (Image Source)
"Life of the Party" made us mildly chuckle a few times, but the laughs were too few and too far between for us to recommend this movie. Instead of having a good time, we found ourselves being annoyed at the choppiness of the story and the lack of funny personalities. Many narrative threads are started but never get resolved. There are also some massive pacing issues to go along with this roughness. We know "for better or worse" is an important part of the sacred vows of marriage, but Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone are not doing their spouse any favors by not telling them the truth: when they work together, they are not very good at what they do. More often than not, their films result in irritating, unfunny comedies with the most basic humor, little to no wit, and jumbled, seemingly unfinished stories that throw plot points at the wall to see what sticks. Avoid this one.

My Rating: 3.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 3.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.5/10
RT Rating: 39%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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