Melissa McCarthy is a funny lady. But when paired with the writing of her husband, Ben Falcone, she is awkward and unremarkable.
In the duo’s latest endeavor, New Line Cinema’s Life of the Party, McCarthy stars as a suddenly divorced woman who returns to the college she dropped out of twenty-some years ago to complete her senior year and earn her archaeology degree. Hijinks ensue when she befriends her daughter’s sorority sisters, starts sleeping with a much younger classmate, and accidentally consumes one too many edibles. You know, par-for-the-course “comedy.”
The first half hour to forty minutes are almost painful to sit through. McCarthy and the rest of the cast, which additionally boasts the talents of former SNLers Maya Rudolph and Chris Parnell as McCarthy’s best friend and professor and Modern Family matriarch Julie Bowen as one of several sorta-villains, do their best with bland material, but few of the jokes land. The closest thing to a laugh that I heard from my entire theater prior to the midpoint was a hacking cough.
Falcone has done his best in recent years to direct his wife. 2014’s Tammy and 2016’s The Boss are other examples of embarrassing attempts at comedy on which the two collaborated. Like with those two examples, there’s no style evident in Life of the Party aside from a quick scene just before the third act that finds McCarthy and her daughter’s friends high and drunk and trashing her ex-husband’s wedding reception. As a director, I can only assume that the point of Falcone’s movies is to see how little effort he can put into being funny and still get studios to fund his work.
There are a few interesting parts in the movie, namely a reveal about halfway in that made everybody in the theater audibly yell, “Oh sh**!” and bust out laughing. But the movie doesn’t really do anything with it after it happens, so it’s ultimately rendered pretty pointless aside from the shock value. There’s also a fun cameo near the end, but what allowed for that cameo was completely predictable. I even whispered it to my friend five minutes before it happened.
Life of the Party has a funny trailer, but unfortunately, that’s largely the only funny thing about it. You’ll probably walk out of the theater having already forgotten most of what you just saw. I know I did.
Life of the Party flunks out with 2/5 stars.