Bubbly and enthusiastic mom Deanna Miles (Melissa McCarthy) is feeling emotional as she drops her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) off to start university. Subsequently, her husband Dan (Matt Walsh) drops the bombshell that he is leaving her for a realtor and wants a divorce. Heartbroken but with a fire in her belly, Deanna decides that now is the time to enrol in college and finish getting her degree in archaeology. Her college of choice is her daughter’s.
This is the third movie collaboration from husband-wife comedic team Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone. As with their 2014 effort Tammy and 2016’s The Boss, Falcone directs with McCarthy headlining and sharing a writing credit with Falcone. For all the comedic talent each of them has as actors, it seems to not translate across to their writing abilities.
The whole ‘mature women decide that their life needs some rejigging via drinking and partying’ plot has been done to death in recent years, with Sisters, Bad Moms, and Fun Mom Dinner being just a few examples. The results tend to be lacklustre. Box office wise, they do ok, as there is a middle-aged female audience out there who enjoy the movies, while critically, they’re stinkers. We have had a few hits such as last year’s Girls Trip that have seen favour with both viewers and reviewers, but overall, and there isn’t so much a problem with female-led comedies as there is with comedies in generally. The problem is their lack of funniness, and that is kind of the whole point of comedy, amirite?
While the first few scenes of Life of the Party fall flat, the pacing does seem to at least pick up following the first of numerous token party scenes. Most of the highlights of the movie, such as Deanna and Dan’s meeting with their divorce lawyer, are given away in the trailer, although there are a few gold nuggets, such as a revelatory restaurant-set scene, that earn big laughs. The hilarity resulting from the latter is almost entirely down to Maya Rudolph, who plays Deanna’s best friend and who of course co-starred with McCarthy in the hit comedy Bridesmaids. Unlike that film, laugh-out-loud moments here are few and far between and, also unlike its predecessor, the supporting cast – in particular the young actresses playing Maddie and Deanna’s friends such as Gillian Jacobs, Adria Arjona, Jessie Ennis, and Heidi Gardner – haven’t quite hit their stride as comedians. There’s also a whole Mean Girls side plot involving former Disney star Debby Ryan which just feels forced.
Melissa McCarthy fans should enjoy Life of the Party as the actress brings that likeable, playful charm she naturally exudes in various prior roles. But the film’s sense of humour - with a tendency towards jokes about the mom embarrassing her daughter, doing ‘outrageous’ things, saying outdated things, and talking about her vagina and large breasts - is pretty bleh.