Sometimes the Movie Man, like you, runs into a double whammy: A movie with an actor you like tanks and you can tell right off the bat that it’s gonna be horrible.
That’s the sad tale of Life of the Party.
About the movie
The Movie Man is a big Melissa McCarthy fan.
When she’s “on,” she’s like a female John Belushi – adept at physical comedy and a whiz at zinging one-liners and casting wonky glances.
Belushi is an apt comparison, because he soared to even higher heights with Animal House after great TV success in the original cast of Saturday Night Live.
(Like many movies from decades ago, if placed in their historical time frame, they are discovered to be much bigger than just that old DVD in the discount bin at Best Buy today.
(Animal House was made in 1978 for less than $3 million and took in over $141 million – making it one of the biggest moneymaking comedies of all time, then. Also, Animal House is enshrined in the National Film Registry as “culturally significant.” So there’s that.)
None of this will never happen with Life of the Party.
McCarthy was great in TV’s Mike and Molly, and she’s made some funny movies – the Movie Man liked Identify Thief (2013, MM #1022, 6), The Heat (2013, MM #1042, 7), and Spy (2015, MM #1143, 8).
However, Life of the Party, despite copying a zillion old-person-goes-back-to-college tropes, misfires in every way.
There are some good examples of the genre, which ballooned after Animal House’s success.
Rodney Dangerfield’s 1986 Back to School had some legitimate laughs.
Mark Harmon in Summer School (1987) manages to pull off the sentimental aspect of scholastic generational differences.
More recently, Old School (2003, Movie Man No. 497, 3) was a film the Movie Man thought was way too unfunny for its cast.
(Even though it did create a line that the Movie Man uses multiple times every summer – Will Ferrell’s “Cannonball!” – when jumping into a pool.)
There are no memorable lines in Life of the Party – in fact, there’s nothing memorable about Life of the Party.
Immediately after dropping her daughter off for her senior year of college, mother Deanna (McCarthy) hears from her husband (Matt Walsh) that he wants a divorce.
He’s already shacked up with Marcie (Julie Bowen, slumming from Modern Family.)
After consulting with her wacky friend Christine (Maya Rudolph who tries really hard to salvage some laughs here), McCarthy decides to enroll in the same college as her daughter since the mom’s just a few credits shy of her degree.
McCarthy becomes a mother figure to some misfit sorority girls as well as her Goth roommate. She also has a dance-off, drinks shots, and does all the other things that Hollywood thinks college kids do today.
Almost nothing works.
McCarthy, who wrote this with her husband/director, Ben Falcone, works hard, but, somehow, she – like everyone else here – is not funny.
The movie is pretty short; that’s good.
During the dumb dance-off, McCarthy spins to the side of the crowd and, flustered, says, “I’m so hot.” It’s simply a cast-off line and sounds like the old McCarthy. But that became the only chuckle that came from the Movie Man.
What doesn’t work
The dialogue is incredibly painful to hear. How did any of these lines ever sound funny to someone?
Every set-up is so pilfered from earlier back-to-college movies that you can begin to peg them – including the finale where guess who needs a promised big star to show up to save a sorority party? And guess who delivers that star at the last minute?
It’s was old hat back when The Brady Bunch did it on TV.
What daughter would so willingly take her mom into her life during her senior year at college?
Everything is so dumb and, worse, unfunny, that the Movie Man could hardly believe it.
There’s one scene that discusses female sexuality that is just painful; otherwise, this PG-13 is what you’d expect.
This is one of the worst films the Movie Man has ever seen. But he still loves McCarthy.