Melissa McCarthy’s most recent film, Life of the Party, tackles the often replicated formula of a down-and-out hero returning to school to pursue a new outlook on life. However, where prior comedies like Old School succeed, the lack of direction and story arc, leaves the audience ultimately unsatisfied.
McCarthy first caught Hollywood’s eye as the over-the-top sister-in-law in Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids. As her popularity grew, so did her filmography.
While she’s continued collaborating with Feig in other successful films like The Heat and Spy, she also joined forces with her husband, director Ben Falcone for less-than-desirable films like The Boss and Tammy.
Falcone and McCarthy’s most recent joint effort boasts a promising premise: a middle-aged, divorcée re-enters university to regain her independence. Unlike the films McCarthy has starred in with Feig, the husband and wife duo fall flat in creating an engaging enough story that supports this unique lead character.
Life of the Party begins with Deanna (Melissa McCarthy), a fortysomething mom that looks like something out of an ’80s sitcom, and her husband Dan (played by bit part comedy actor Bill Walsh) dropping their daughter off for her final year of university.
After an over-the-top goodbye, Deanna sits back in the car only to be told by her husband of twenty plus years, that he wants a divorce. Even with jokes scattered throughout this scene, the honesty of this moment can be felt through McCarthy’s depiction of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such devastating news.
Unfortunately, that’s where the real conflict in the film ends. The rest of the plot plays out like a string of awkward Saturday Night Live skits that wouldn’t make it past dress rehearsal. The only scenes that seem to hold up are the ones featuring the always-lovable SNL alumni Maya Rudolph, as Deanna’s best friend Christine.
This is the saving grace of the film. The comedic timing of McCarthy when paired with Rudolph, is enough to satisfy fans. McCarthy is able to draw laughs out of a dull script. Every moment with these two seems genuine and authentic, like two friends trying to make one another laugh.
However, even with these moments, the lack of real struggle overshadows the film. Scenes where she’s battling a bully or arguing with her ex, create little to no emotional connection with the audience. Every scene with any remote shred of contention holds no consequences for her character.
When less-than-cool Deanna tries to fit in with her daughter’s friends, she’s immediately welcomed into their group. When she ruins a wedding, she’s forgiven the next day. When she doesn’t know how she’s going to pay for school, an immediate solution arises.
There’s not enough struggle for this character, whose life is supposed to be in shambles after an ugly divorce.
McCarthy’s comedic genius isn’t up for debate. She is undoubtedly one of the funniest actors in modern Hollywood cinema, but her collaborations with her husband continue to fall flat with Life of the Party being no exception. She should probably stick to working with Paul Feig.
This gets a two out of five. One for McCarthy and one for Rudolph.
Opening this weekend in theatres everywhere. Rated PG-13 (for sexual material, drug content and partying). 105-minutes long.