Plot: Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) has barely seen her daughter off to college when her husband asks for a divorce, letting her know he has found someone else and that he is leaving her. She is devastated of course, but after burning most of his possessions, she regroups and realizes she needs a new direction in life. As she left college one year before graduation to care for her daughter, Deanna decides to finish her degree and attend the same school as her beloved child. This causes some initial stress, as going to school with her mom is an odd prospect, but as Deanna embraces campus life and inspires those around her, the good times begin. But with the pressures of a divorce, new love, the dedication needed to finish her degree, and a sudden school rival pop up, can Deanna make it all work and fulfill her destiny?
Entertainment Value: Life of the Party is a broad, slapstick comedy that is destined to become a cable television staple. In other words, not a deep experience, but a movie that knows what it is and offers drop-in entertainment, thanks in large part to a colorful, committed cast. I can see how some viewers might not connect with the material, as humor is so subjective and the movie does have a definite female slant, but to me, most of the humor is universal. I found that a good amount of the jokes landed and in truth, most of the ones that didn’t still offered some laughs, as most of the cast really goes for broke. So the line might not be hilarious, but the performances are so wild, that can work wonders for the script. I also appreciated that while the topics of divorce, mother-daughter relationships, and late in life lifestyle chances weren’t deeply explored, they’re touched upon and that’s admirable. So yes, this is a silly comedy first and foremost, but at least some effort was made to include some substance. If you don’t have a tolerance for crude, sexual, or a little on the random side style humor however, you’ll likely be left cold by this one. But I had fun with Life of the Party and I think it will find an audience with time.
As I mentioned before, the cast here really comes to play and that is one reason the movie works so well. Melissa McCarthy turns in a fearless, over the top effort that anchors the movie and feels in line with most of her comedic performances. So while we have seen her in similar roles before, but she really goes for it here and holds nothing back in the process. The scene where she has to give a presentation, but wilts under the heat is so ridiculous, but it is hilarious because McCarthy just dives in and goes for broke in the moment. I also love that she is able to bring out the best in her costars, who play off her often and to effective ends. Gillian Jacobs steals the show at times, in a quirky, highly memorable role that lets her show an odd comedic presence that she hasn’t shown much before. Just her facial expressions here are priceless, but she also has excellent timing with her lines. Maya Rudolph also has some memorable scenes, in another performance that is beyond over the top, but super fun. The cast also includes Debby Ryan, Julie Bowen, Stephen Root, Molly Gordon, Adria Arjona, and numerous other familiar faces. Life of the Party is a wild, often silly comedy that might not solve world hunger, but it is a fun ride.