Life of the Party is another collaboration by Melissa McCarthy, who serves as lead actor and co-writer, with her husband Ben Falcone who also directs the feature. McCarthy’s character, Deanna, is a typical suburban mom on the brink of empty nest syndrome as her daughter leaves for college but is unexpectedly faced with divorce and financial ruin. Matt Walsh (Veep) plays her spineless ex-husband Dan who leaves her as they drop off their daughter Maddie, played by Emily Gordon. Walsh is perfectly cast alongside Julie Bowen (Modern Family) as his new overbearing flame and “upgrade” Marcie.
Deanna decides to return to finish her last year of college at the same school as her daughter, which she had dropped out of after becoming pregnant. Though at first her daughter is hesitant, her sorority sisters hit it off with Deanna and she’s eventually pledged. Love alums Gillian Jacobs and Heidi Gardner are cast as the oddest of the sorority sisters and get to show off their comedy chops in this; I definitely wanted to see more of Jacobs but there was quite a large cast of characters to contend with. By far my favorite character has to be that of Maya Rudolph as the ultimate BFF to Deanna, Christine. Christine is the best hype woman I’ve ever seen that every person needs in their corner. Her outbursts were some of the best parts of the film. The rest of the cast includes Chris Parnell as Deanna’s professor, Debbie Ryan as the typical mean girl, Luke Benward as her much younger fling, Jack, Jimmy O. Yang as her daughters boyfriend, and Stephen Root and Jacki Weaver as McCarthy’s parents.
As Deanna navigates her new life, she’s faced with overcoming public speaking, being financially cut off by her ex, and best of all, becoming a cougar.
McCarthy and Falcone made sure to include and highlight one of the things which she’s best at, physical comedy. Scenes where Deanna fumbled through situations played best with the audience and no current comedic actor out there can rival her at that at the moment. It reminds me of old Jim Carrey or Gene Wilder. Having seen Melissa McCarthy’s Lip Sync Battle about a dozen times, I wish there had been more of her dancing. It’s always amusing to watch her perform and it’s even better when she is at the helm of the process and creating and controlling all of her material. Falcone does a great job of helping her deliver her best and allowing her to make out with Luke Benward incessantly throughout the movie. Life of the Party may not be a blockbuster but it is a feel good comedy that I found enjoyable and not as predictable as I was expecting. At times I thought I knew what would happen next, but Falcone and McCarthy managed to provide some unexpected twists. I was happy to see that the movie’s goal was not to have Deanna find contentment through another romance, she didn’t need to end up with a man to find happiness
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