UK Release Date: 11th May 2018
Runtime: 105 minutes
Director: Ben Falcone
Writer: Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Molly Gordon, Gillian Jacobs, Maya Rudolph, Matt Walsh, Julie Bowen, Jacki Weaver, Stephen Root
Synopsis: After her husband divorces her, a middle-aged woman decides to re-enrol in college to finish her degree at the same time as her daughter is completing her senior year.
It’s not uncommon for a Hollywood comedy film to be terrible. It’s definitely not uncommon for a Melissa McCarthy-led Hollywood comedy film to be terrible. And I’d go as far as to say that it’s actually common for a Melissa McCarthy-led Hollywood comedy film directed by her husband Ben Falcone to be terrible. However, none of those statements are adequate preparation for Life of the Party, which is almost certainly the most unusual and bizarre cinema experience of the year so far. It’s a movie that marries decent ideas and a handful of good set pieces with some of the worst, unimaginably cringe-worthy awfulness that has graced the big screen in 2018.
We first meet Deanna (McCarthy) and her husband Dan (Matt Walsh) as they drop off their daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon), who is about to start her senior year of college. As they’re pulling out of the car park, Dan reveals he has been having an affair with a real estate agent (Julie Bowen) and wants a divorce. Deanna is distraught, but decides to embrace her new life by going back to college to finish her archaeology degree – at the same time as her daughter is studying there. She throws herself headlong into the university experience, starting a relationship with frat boy Jack (Luke Benward).
Everything about Life of the Party feels catastrophically misjudged. The 12A/PG-13 rating feels like it has clipped the teeth of McCarthy’s comedy, preventing her from digging into the bag of lewd tricks that strapped a rocket to her career after Bridesmaids. Like Amy Schumer in the similarly dismal I Feel Pretty, McCarthy has too much comic talent not to occasionally strike gold – her chemistry with a firing-on-all-cylinders Maya Rudolph is undeniable – but that doesn’t much help the movie in its long spells without a sniff of a joke. The low points in this film are exceptionally low and dragged out seemingly endlessly – the nadir is an oral exam in which McCarthy’s character suffers crippling stage fright.
The script, penned by McCarthy and Falcone, walks an odd tightrope between endless scenes of improvisation and scripted dialogue that is almost too awful for words. When one character turns to another post-coitally and declares that “you are my sexual Dumbledore”, it’s like nails on a chalkboard amplified through one of those terrible Snapchat animal filters. The edit haphazardly jumps between different improvisations and occasionally lands upon a funny moment, mostly courtesy of Rudolph, but largely wallows in dismally unfunny material that is worse when you consider the fact it was probably the best of a dozen takes. Gillian Jacobs, in particular, is obviously acting in a completely different movie.
In a world of American comedy movies that are often either surprisingly enjoyable (Game Night) or consistently bland (Father Figures), it’s almost refreshing to watch one that has the courage to try different ideas, even if very few of its ideas ultimately work out.
Pop or Poop?
Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone’s professional partnership has yielded another stinker with Life of the Party, which has some of the worst moments in a comedy for a number of years. It’s a hodgepodge of about 15 different films and probably one of them is good – but that one is largely hidden under an avalanche of nonsense.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.