McCarthy’s ‘Life of the Party’ dies on the screen

By Chic DiCiccio

Here’s a non-gender specific movie premise: Divorced, middle aged, college dropout decides to finish college with their about to graduate daughter. Hijinks ensue. No, it doesn’t star Adam Sandler. This is, in fact, another horrendous Melissa McCarthy comedy vehicle with an equally horrendous title, “Life of the Party.” It’s the third clunker (after “Tammy” and “The Boss”) from McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone, who simply must stop writing movies together. This is potentially the worst of them all as it neuters McCarthy’s whip-smart tongue and turns into a PG-13 cringe worthy, corny mess.

One would assume that a comedy of this kind would be a raunchy, fish out of water romp. “Life of the Party” doesn’t even get college student debauchery correct. The paper-thin plot completely hinges on episodic moments of collegiate insanity that make “Animal House” seem like hardcore pornography. The college kids, who all look like 30-year olds, speak like how 50-year olds think they speak … which is to say they sound like high school freshman.

Once she’s enrolled in school, Deanna (McCarthy) quickly gets to work on getting her college stereotype checklist completed. Awkward new student move of buying up all the school spirit memorabilia? Got it. Weird roommate? You know it. Deanna even gets a quick makeover from her daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon), and the housewife turns to party animal/sexpot, all thanks to a brush and some lipstick. It is maddening.

Maddie’s sorority sisters embrace Deanna, which is lovely, but they are so overly winsome that it quickly becomes irritating. There’s even a bizarre thread in which Deanna is bullied by two girls that would make more sense in “Mean Girls 2.”

In true Sandler movie fashion, “Life of the Party” makes getting money the main goal and the final 30 minutes are unbelievably tiresome. The “surprise” celebrity cameo is so obvious that you could have slept through everything that occurs before it and know what’s coming.

Thankfully, Maya Rudolph and Gillian Jacobs nearly save every single scene they are in. Rudolph, who simply doesn’t appear in enough movies, is Deanna’s best friend and she’s living vicariously through her now-wild pal. It’s not exactly an Earth-shattering role for her, but Rudolph is a complete pro and she sells every moment she’s got.

Jacobs’ Helen gets a running joke that is equal parts strange and funny. It’s too good to be spoiled, but you’d almost rather see a movie about her story.

At this point, there’s no reason to expect anything remotely appealing from McCarthy and Falcone. This is the kind of movie that thinks watching McCarthy dance to “Apache” by The Sugarhill Gang is a laugh riot. McCarthy is clearly capable of elevating goofy material (see “Spy” or “The Heat”), but this is a complete waste of her comedic talents.

There is a greater than good chance that “Life of the Party” zips in and out of theaters while the Avengers continue their global domination. Melissa McCarthy should thank Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for allowing this fully unwatchable wreck to silently disappear into the depths of her IMDB page.

Melissa McCarthy in “Life of the Party” (2018). Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema

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