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Life of the Party (2018) - Movie Review

1 starLike the Basket Weaving 101 class offered to help fulfill those elective credits in college, Life of the Party should have been a slam dunk. Just put the funny person in funny situations, roll camera, cut, print, and go to the bank. But there’s a reason I’m not a filmmaker. And it’s the same reason I dropped Basket Weaving 101 during the first week of class: neither is quite as simple as first thought.

In the case of Life of the Party, the main difficulties are its glaring absence of comedy, messy tone, paper-thin characters, lack of conflict, and totally non-existent real-world presence. With Basket Weaving 101, the culprit was mostly my ravenous appetite for sleeping in. But whereas I re-enrolled in the 11:00 am offering of that class from hell (and killed it, by the way), Life of the Party feels as though it has taken the entire semester off.

The film is another star vehicle for Melissa McCarthy with her husband, Ben Falcone at the helm working from a script they both co-wrote. They did it before with 2014’s Tammy and again in 2016 with The Boss, but just like both of those films, this one grows stale quite quickly and has very little comedy left in the tank by the time the credits roll. What little humor there is comes mostly from McCarthy’s physical antics and a few yuks from a seasoned comedic supporting cast including Maya Rudolph. Shocking is the number of missed comedic opportunities.

"Life of the Party feels as though it has taken the entire semester off."


McCarthy is Deanna, the mother of college-aged daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon), and wife to Dan (Matt Walsh) for the last 25 years. No sooner do they drop Molly off for her senior year of college, than Dan informs his wife that he wants a divorce so he can skirt off with a real estate agent named Marcie (Julie Bowen).

Totally blind-sided by the revelation, Deanna is left searching for the next chapter in her life that was given up on some 20-or-so years ago in favor of raising the couple’s daughter. She’s a mom’s mom with over-sized eyeglasses, baggy sweatpants, a propensity for giving smothering hugs, and a sweet disposition that would give June Cleaver a run for her money. But, of course, we know that these types of movies rely on a transformation of some sort, so we soon learn that Deanna wants to return to college to finally complete her archaeology degree. And what better place than the same college where daughter Maddie is enrolled.

Cue the uncomfortable encounters and awkward situations that are bound to face mom and daughter as the generation gap rears its ugly head, right? Well, that’s not what actually happens. And that’s another of the film’s deadly shortcomings. Instead, rather than being horrified by her Mother’s gaudy mom sweaters, cheerful disposition, and great efforts to bring “The Quad” back into common college vernacular, those very traits are endeared and celebrated by Maddie and her sorority friends. Despite efforts to have us buy in to Deanna’s unburdened acceptance into college life, we’re just not buying. There’s no conflict, no drama, and simply not enough teeth to allow us to savor the story’s truly heartfelt moments. McCarthy’s brand of humor always works better with a bit of bite and bawdiness. There is none of that here.

Life of the Party (2018) - Blu-ray Review

Then there are the characters who are as thin as the paper the script was written on. Though McCarthy is the best part the entire film – and thankfully she’s in nearly every scene, there’s only so much comedy to be wrung from a one-note sweetheart. Built around the idea of transformation and overcoming one’s difficulties, it makes no sense that Deanna’s profound transformation is from sweet, lovable mom to sweet, lovable mom who hangs out with her daughter and friends at college. Sure, there’s the mean girl bully duo who roll their eyes at Deanna’s feeble attempts at acceptance, but neither poses enough of a threat to amount to anything.

Life of the Party knows it is broad, silly comedy, and when it stops trying to be something else, all is made much easier to swallow. There’s always room for McCarthy in these types of comedies. She is undoubtedly a funny person capable of driving a film. Unfortunately, Life of the Party just isn’t that vehicle. Much more exciting is the prospect of seeing her dramatic side in the upcoming biopic Can You Ever Forgive Me?, about best-selling celebrity biographer Lee Israel.

Life of the Party (2018) - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual material, drug content and partying.
Runtime:
105 mins
Director
: Ben Falcone
Writer:
Ben Falcone; Melissa McCarthy
Cast:
Melissa McCarthy, Gillian Jacobs, Debby Ryan
Genre
: Comedy
Tagline:
Old School Meets New Life.
Memorable Movie Quote: "No one even says that any more."
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 11, 2018
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
Own Life of the Party on Blu-ray combo pack and DVD on August 7, or Own It Early on Digital HD on July 24!
Synopsis: When her husband suddenly dumps her, longtime dedicated housewife Deanna (McCarthy) turns regret into re-set by going back to college…landing in the same class and school as her daughter, who’s not entirely sold on the idea. Plunging headlong into the campus experience, the increasingly outspoken Deanna—now Dee Rock—embraces freedom, fun and frat boys on her own terms, finding her true self in a senior year no one ever expected.

Life of the Party (2018) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Warner Bros.
Available on Blu-ray - Own Life of the Party on Blu-ray combo pack and DVD on August 7, or Own It Early on Digital HD on July 24!
Screen Formats: 2.4:1
Subtitles: English SDH; French; and Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English descriptive audio 5.1; French Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set + Movie Anywhere digital movie code.
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Life of the Party makes its debut on sparkling blu-ray thanks to Warner's 1080p release that crackles to life with a beautiful transfer that is both appealing to the eye and exciting to the ear. It is clear they've given this release a touch of love with ample supplements and high-end technical execution.

Much of the film is people sitting around talking or partying at beer joints or frat houses, so the subject matter doesn't beg for a masterful blu-ray treatment and certainly isn't a candidate for a 4k release but regardless, Warner have done themselves, and us, a favor with a fantastic release of a film that didn't quite hit its mark with audiences or critics.

Colors are bright and well-saturated while never sacrificing the deep end with darks and blacks that hold true.

The audio sparkles with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that, while focused mainly on the center channel, comes to life with a room-awakening crackle (especially during the party and restaurant scenes) that is sharp and succinct. No mistakes here.

Supplements:

Commentary:

Though it is always great to hear directors and/or writers sit down and discuss what it was like to work with a great comedy team such as this, there is no commentary included on this release.

Special Features:

There is an ample offering of extra features that fill up the BD-50 disc while also providing the film on an included DVD disc. There is also a card with a redemption code for a Movies Anywhere digital download. We get two featurettes totaling about eight minutes of interviews and commentary. Also included are 14 deleted scenes and outtakes, several of which are laugh out loud funny.

  • 80's Party (04:51): Director Ben Falcone, and the actors sit down to talk about the costumes, song selections, and look of the 80s party that takes place in the film.
  • Mom Sandwich (02:45) : McCarthy speaks to the characters who play her mom and dad, Mike and Sandy, and how the two are lightly based off of the actresses real mom and dad.
  • Deleted Scenes: Uber Australian version; Mom Calls; Racquetball; Guidance Counselor; Quad Walk; Archeology Class; Shots; Archeology Class 2; Restaurant: Restaurant 2; Weed Bark; Spider Gloves; 80% Christina; and Truzac
  • Line-O-Rama (03:02)
  • Line-O-Rama: Bill Hate-O-Rama (05:25)

Life of the Party (2018) - Movie Review

 

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