LIFE OF THE PARTY — Review by Sarah Knight Adamson

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Undeniably, Melissa McCarthy is one of the funniest women working in Hollywood to date. After her break-out role in Bridesmaids (2011), the female version of The Hangover, McCarthy continues to cross over into typical guy-dominated roles: buddy cops in The Heat, world reconnaissance in Spy, and exterminating ghosts in Ghostbusters. Here she’s reinventing the manboy character as in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School and Will Ferrell’s Old School in creating a sweet, unassuming mom role in Life of the Party. Continue reading…

Truly a winner, as the smart script offers a variety of relatable themes—mom-daughter bonds, single parenting, facing your fears, and becoming your best self—all while boasting several laugh-out-loud moments. The audience I screened the film with applauded and cheered at the ending.

She teams up yet again with her husband Ben Falcone, as co-writer, director, and actor (he plays the Uber driver whom McCarthy voices her sob story). McCarthy plays Deanna, a be-dazzled sweatshirted mom who’s dropping her college-senior daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) at school and saying her good-byes. Their relationship is open, respectful and loving. All her annoyingly cheap dad, Dan, (Matt Walsh), can say is that ‘he’s looking forward to the day her tuition payments are over.’ While driving away, he basically tells Deanna he’s in love with another woman, (the local real estate agent Marcie (Julie Bowen), he is selling their house and wants a divorce. Deanna’s reaction is hurt, followed by anger; she kicks the car, stomps off and dials Uber.

In a somewhat uneven comedic scene, we meet her parents—who by the way are based on her real parents, with their real first names—Mike and Sandy. They immediately remind her that she didn’t finish college and that it was all Dan’s fault that she quit school. Yes, I realize this is a comedy, but I would have preferred that dad Mike, would have been more supportive rather than reminding his daughter of her failures. Sandy, smiles offers ham sandwiches as is typical of McCarthy’s real mom Sandy. Deanna tells them her plan to go back to school and before we know it she’s knocking on her daughter’s college sorority bedroom door to tell her she’s enrolled.

Of course, mom attends the wild college parties with the typical horrid tasting shots, cheap box wine, along with blaring rap music. In an unexpected plot twist, a drop-dead gorgeous guy Jack (Luke Benward) hits on her—for real, not a dare or a joke. The unforeseen story-line serves as a vehicle to restore Deanna’s confidence and her own self worth, especially after being dumped by Dan. Their scenes together are very funny, while charming. Let’s just say that at one point both mom and daughter stay the night at a frat house and end up sneaking out while simultaneously doing the ‘walk of shame.’

Maya Rudolph’s hysterical portrayal of Christine, Deanna’s best friend and confidant is stellar. She plays a wine cooler sipping bored wife who giggles and shouts approval of her friend’s R-rated frolics in the library stacks. Together these two bring solid laugh-out-loud comedic performances that enhance the script while bringing the film to life.

McCarthy’s best work always emerges when she’s giving us full-on physical comedy. For sure, the 80s dance party moves are indeed some of the funniest I’ve seen, McCarthy flops across the stage at warp speed on her belly doing the worm dance. The catchy 80s soundtrack complementing the scenes add fun and reminders of the decade.

The Bottom Line: At its core, this hysterically sweet film has a big, loving, kind heart.

Cast: Melissa McCarthy (Deanna), Matt Walsh (Dan), Maya Rudolph, (Christine), Molly Gordon (Maddie), Jessie Ennis (Debbie), Gillian Jacobs (Helen), Adria Arjona (Amanda) Luke Benward (Jack), Julie Bowen (Marcie), Jacki Weaver (Sandy Miles-Deanna’s Mom) and Stephen Root (Mike Miles-Deanna’s dad)

Credits: Screenplay writers: Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy. Director, Ben Falcone,

Running Time: 1 hour 45 Minutes

Studio: New Line Cinema, Warner Bros.

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Sarah Knight Adamson

Chicago-based Sarah Knight Adamson is the film critic for the Internationally syndicated radio show Hollywood 360, broadcast on over 90 stations. She has served on film panels for the Chicago Public Library, been a juror at film festivals, and writes about film for Naperville Magazine. She is founder and publisher of Sarah’s Backstage Pass website, where her written work appears.