Life of the Party is a perfectly serviceable comedy that – despite being what the movie is about – never looks to take that next step to be something more. There’s a great potential for heart and special bonding moments to be had throughout the film, yet writers Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone opt to go with McCarthy’s usual shtick, focusing more on simple laughs over delving too much into any of the characters to help give the story depth or direction.
That’s unfortunate, because Life of the Party starts strong out of the gate, jumping right into the thick of it without wasting time. McCarthy stars as Deanna, and she and her husband Dan (Matt Walsh) are dropping their daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon) off for her sophomore year at college. After Deanna gives a tearful goodbye hug to her daughter, she gets into the car and no longer able to hold in his disdain for his marriage, Dan says he wants a divorce. McCarthy does a great job here, as she truly feels like a homely mother who is now ready to get on to the next chapter in her life, so even though we’ve only watched these two on screen together for mere moments, the heartbreak she feels in this moment is clear and it’s a crushing moment to watch.
And had the movie kept up that type of emotional connection mixed in amongst the comedy then there’s a good chance it would leave much more of a lasting impression. After Dan asks for a divorce, Deanna comes to the realization that she wants to finish college (she dropped out so they could have Maddie) and start a career, with the twist being that she’ll be attending school alongside her daughter.
While this doesn’t sit well with Maddie when it’s first brought to her attention, the story quickly moves past it to allow for the terrific dynamic between Deanna and Maddie’s friends, Helen (Gillian Jacobs), Amanda (Adria Arjona) and Debbie (Jessie Ennis) to take center stage and make for some of the funniest moments in the movie.
This is greatly in part to how well McCarthy pulls off the matriarchal role, with plenty of solid mom jokes being delivered fairly consistently. But while the relationship between Deanna, Maddie and her friends is the strongest point of the film, it also never goes much deeper than those mom jokes, which leaves all the characters lacking as a whole.
For example: When Deanna first meets Maddie’s friends she notices that Helen seems older than the rest, and Helen tells her that she was actually in a coma for eight years and is just now getting around to finishing college — albeit undeclared. But after Deanna mentions she’s looking to finish her archeology degree, Helen watches Indiana Jones, becomes intrigued, and joins the class as well. The problem is, she’s flunking hard. Now, the realization that she’s doing poorly in the class is just a throwaway joke that’s funny in its delivery, and this isn’t Helen’s story; but the vibe the movie initially gives off is that of Deanna is going back to school to become a stronger person, and alongside her newfound friends, they’ll all help one another grow as people and get over the things that may be holding them back.
But instead of going that route, Life of the Party basically introduces these characters and others to simply serve as joke fodder or plot devices on the cliché ridden-road more travelled by these types of films. Even so, the movie is still enjoyable (well, up until the deus ex machina of sorts final act where it jumps the shark) and while in short it’s the story of a mom attending her daughter’s college, trying to fit in and regain control of her life with little to no obstacles to overcome along the way, Life of the Party just gets by with a passing grade greatly in part to the charm McCarthy brings to the character of Deanna.
The video transfer for the Blu-ray looks sharp. While the movie leaves the realm of reality in its storytelling nature, the picture itself is kept grounded with natural tones and just a nice, clean look overall. The sound also rings through nicely, with surround sound boosting the party scenes while the dialogue never struggles to be coherent alongside it.
‘80s Party – This featurette is just under five minutes long and sees the cast talk and director Ben Falcone talk about filming the ‘80s dance party scene and the fun they all had dressing up for it and basically dancing for four days.
Mom Sandwich – This featurette comes in at just under three minutes and sees McCarthy and Falcone talk about Deanna’s parents in the film and how they’re loosely based off McCarthy’s parents.
Line-O-Rama – You’d think that this would be funnier than it is, but at three minutes in length, it’s clear they chose the proper lines for the movie, as the rest of these sort of fall flat or just get tiresome watching.
Line-O-Rama: Bill Hate-O-Rama – This one comes in at just under three minutes but focuses just on everyone delivering hateful lines to Bill when they’re out at dinner. Again, the best were chosen for the film and this brief featurette drags on even at such a short length.
Gag Reel – At five and a half minutes, this is the longest featurette on the release, and it’s fun enough to give a watch to if you have any interest in the features at all.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Presents Life of the Party. Directed by: Ben Falcone. Written by: Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone. Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Matt Walsh, Molly Gordon, Maya Rudolph, Gillian Jacobs, Adria Arjona, Jessie Ennis, Luke Benward. Running time: 105 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: Aug. 7, 2018.
Tags: Life of the Party, Melissa McCarthy