Cinema Review: Life of the Party

As a comedienne of faultless timing and subtle delivery, Melissa McCarthy can be both vulnerable and madcap. In this piece of fluff she plays Deanna, a doting mom whose husband of twenty-two years tells her he wants a divorce on the day that their daughter Jennifer (Debby Ryan) is entering college. Deanna is shattered, but she decides to start her life anew by completing the degree in archaeology that she abandoned when she fell pregnant. That she would enrol at the same college as Jennifer is too schmaltzy by half, but when she starts hanging out with the girls at Jennifer’s sorority house, who think she is the bee’s knees, you can only guffaw. Lurching from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous, Deanna attends a party with Jennifer and the mother gets laid by handsome frat boy (Luke Benward). There’s nothing wrong with the fantasy of reliving the golden days of one’s youth, but in this case the older woman’s success at mixing it with her her juniors stretches credibility. Some of the jokes verge on the icky, too – Deanne refers to her vagina as the va-google, assuring her new friends that they can consult it if they have any questions about sex. There is also an outrageously ‘wrong’ scene in which she and some of the ‘sisters’ get accidentally stoned – after eating chocolate that has been laced with marijuana, they behave as though drunk, not high. A fantastic twist, concerning the jock who has a crush on Deanne, flies into the story from left field and brings with it a welcome edge, but the script does not take advantage of its potential to make things more interesting. Deanne’s fellow students are pretty and vacuous, Benward is a log, and Maya Rudolph goes over the top as the housewife buddy who is so inspired by Deanne’s liberation. As chick-flicks go, it’s comfy but unchallenging, with director Ben Falcone (McCarthy’s real-life spouse) encouraging his leading lady to breeze through it on auto.

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