Life of the Party

 

            You expect a comedy to have some silly moments, and this one does.  But it also enjoys some LOL scenes, interspersed with some genuine warmth. 

            Melissa McCarthy plays Deanna, a middle-aged woman who didn't finish her last year of university herself, because she was pregnant with her first child, Maddie (Molly Gordon).  Now Deanna and her husband have just dropped off Maddie for her senior year in college, when he drops the bombshell:  he wants a divorce.  He's fallen in love with their realtor.  And they've already decided to sell the house, since it was in his name only, anyway.

            Deanna is devastated, but her best friend, Christine (Maya Rudolph), tells her that this might be her big opportunity to finish college herself.  So she enrolls in Decatur University, yes, the same school as her daugther, but promises she won't get in the way.  But she can't help herself, she visits her daughter at her sorority house, and the “sisters” there are so enamored with Deanna that they make her an honorary member.

            You'd expect that Melissa McCarthy will make fun of her own body type, which she does.   She also delivers cringing toasts when they're all taking shots at a party.  She dances with such abandon that you can't help but laugh with her.  She even meets a frat guy who seems really interested in her; a matchup which her daugther does not want to think too much about.

            They manage to milk some humor out of the divorce proceedings by dealing with a mediator who asks that all conversation be directed toward her, so they oblige by spewing their mutual insults at her.  But there are some tender moments, as well.  One of the sorority girls is having a tough time, so Deanna makes her lasagna.  The sorority sisters admit to some insecurity about their looks, and Deanna helps build their self-confidence by assuring them that they're beautiful (and smart, and talented).  When one of the campus “mean girls” gets in a catfight with a sorority sister, Deanna breaks it up, and reminds them that we women need to stick together.

            As with any comedy, some of the attempted humor falls flat, like when Deanna gets nervous making a class presentation, and sweats a lot.  Or when she and the archaeology professor (an old classmate) trade puns.  But it's an upbeat, elongated-sitcom type of comedy that won't do any harm, and just might be good for a few laughs.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association