Stifled dreams, adultery, sexual escapades, weed laced cookies, cougars and sorority parties —“Life of the Party,” the new comedy starring Melissa McCarthy, has it all. Another vehicle directed by her husband Ben Falcone (“The Boss” and “Tammy”) under through their production company, On the Day Productions, the film follows McCarthy as Deanna Miles, a forty-something year old dedicated housewife who decides to head back to college after a divorce and lands in the same class as her daughter.
The film does start off with some mild laughs as comedy veteran Matt Walsh, who plays her onscreen husband Dan, promptly informs Deanna that her other role in life—that of wife—has been cut just after dropping off their daughter in college. He’s having an affair with the local real estate agent Marcie, (Julie Bowen) and he’s taking the house. After unburdening herself to her parents, friend (Maya Rudolph) and her Uber driver, Deanna’s first move is to relieve herself of the burden of her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s things with a small, backyard bonfire. When she comes across an old photo of herself with the Decatur University Archaeology Club, she decides to return to college.
“We wanted to create a story that encourages people to believe it is okay to suddenly say, ‘I’m middle-aged and I’m moving to another country, I’m starting a vineyard or learning to bake bread.’ It’s never too late to redefine your life and to say, out loud, ‘What about me?’” shares McCarthy, who was eager to recreate the college experience for the film.
Deanna plunges headlong into the campus experience, much to her daughter’s chagrin, and along the way, she fends off mean girls, rediscovers sex, gets high and intoxicated and experiences the walk of shame all while mothering daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) and her sorority sisters. There are college shindigs, a dance off competition, a sorority party, booze, sex and that silly comic fluff one would expect with any film that circles around college life — most of which in this case is far from hilarious. At the end of it all, she manages to be win literally everyone over including her own daughter.
Aside from that inspirational message of never giving up on your dreams, this fruitless attempt to cash in on Ms. McCarthy’s solid fan base lacks major laughs despite its star comedic casting.
Samantha Ofole-Prince is a journalist and movie critic who covers industry-specific news. Twitter @samanthaofole