Melissa McCarthy’s career as an actress has had an interesting trajectory since her supporting turn in the 2011 blockbuster comedy Bridesmaids. That film made her the go-to actress for comedy roles of a certain type. As a general rule what has happened since then is that McCarthy will turn up in a comedic vehicle that succeeds well enough (The Heat and Spy) followed by one that doesn’t work at all. The projects she’s chosen to participate in that don’t seem to work (Tammy and The Boss) have one common factor and that would be the presence of her hubby, Ben Falcone, behind the camera. Falcone is a decent enough acting presence in the films he’s turned up in over the last several years (Enough Said, Bad Words) but as a director his instincts are tone deaf at best.
I mention all of this simply because McCarthy’s latest effort, Life of the Party, is also helmed by Falcone. I won’t go so far as to suggest that it’s as bad as the two previous Falcone-McCarthy teamings as it would be quite a feat to reach the lows that were achieved with the 2016 film The Boss and the previous effort, Tammy. Still, no one is going to confuse Life of the Party with the 1986 comedy classic Back to School, a film that it liberally borrows its plot from, anytime soon.
This is a generic PG-13 comedy that never rises above its sitcom level aspirations. It’s tolerable but that’s about the best that can be said about it. Anyone experiencing guffaws while watching it probably has missed a lot of the great screen comedies of the last fifty years. That would be the only logical explanation as to why anyone might actually find it funny.
McCarthy stars as Deanna, a dutiful housewife who’s suffering from empty nest syndrome. Just as she’s plotting the next step in her life, her hubby Dan (Matt Walsh) lowers the boom by both asking for a divorce and confessing his love for another woman. It’s at this point that McCarthy’s character begins to question her choices in life and decides to go and accomplish something she never got around to doing, which is to finish college. The plot complications start multiplying when Deanna shows up on campus, forging bonds with her daughter’s friends and romancing one of her daughter’s fellow classmates. If this sounds like the stuff that successful sitcoms are made from you’d be on the nose in your assessment. Unfortunately great screen comedies take a bit more effort.
The basic problem with Life of the Party is that it’s just so trite and predictable. Plot points are telegraphed way in advance and the humor only managed to elicit a few chuckles and nonreal laughs from yours truly. Falcone may have improved a wee bit with this one but that’s not saying much. I’m thinking that McCarthy might want to keep it out of the family for a while based on the results I’m seeing.
“Life of the Party” opens Friday in Hickory.
Image: Melissa McCarthy in Life of the Party
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