And largely because McCarthy's a very amusing woman, "Life of the Party" often is amusing, occasionally very much so. The film is very much in line with McCarthy's previous collaborations with her writer/director husband Ben Falcone in terms of style, yet its strengths outweigh its flaws at the end of the day.
McCarthy stars as Deanna, a blithe fortysomething housewife whose only child, Maddie (Molly Gordon) is about to start her senior year at the fictional Decatur University. After some weird I Don't Think It Really Works That Way complications - Dan won't give Deanna her share of the proceeds from selling their house; Deanna, who never graduated, instantly gets herself re-enrolled - Deanna's back at college, living in a dorm not far from Maddie's sorority house and thrilled to return to her student days. She then decides to follow in the footsteps of her daughter by going to college to complete her degree, according to IMDB. Why is Jack, with his male-model looks, attracted to Deanna when he could likely have any girl on campus?
Identity Thief (2013) McCarthy starred as a con artist opposite Jason Bateman, as her victim, in this comedy from Seth Gordon ("Horrible Bosses"). The female ensemble in Life of the Party is quite endearing.
Falcone is likewise a step down from Feig behind the camera, but his directing has improved since he made his feature debut on Tammy. While she's physically unrestrained, the PG-13 rating means that her knack for the weird (as seen in Bridesmaids) and the lewd (her sweary tirades in The Heat and Spy) is kept under wraps. Most films of this ilk have men at the center with raunchy overabundance.
As the final act descends into a procession of characters starting statements with "I just want to thank you for ...", you'll be begging for the sweet release of the credits. There's even a sadness when she says it, as though she knows she should just go with the flow but can't help herself.
It's clear the director-writers have no intentions of adding a dash of subtlety to their creation when another party erupts into a dance-off, when Deanna and her new friends go into destructive mode after eating some "weed bark" and when the film devolves into hints of a guest musical artist whose name won't be revealed here. She will find a nice oaky chardonnay at a frat party; bake a lovely homemade lasagna for her daughter's self-doubting sorority sisters; and yes, maybe bang a 22-year-old in the library stacks until he calls her his "sexual Dumbledore".
Numerous jokes that McCarthy and Falcone have crafted - if "crafted" is even the right word - aim squarely for the crotch, as when an errant racquetball hits Deanna's friend (Maya Rudolph) in the groin, leading to exactly as much mirth as that experience suggests. At Decatur, to be "Life of the Party" (which is the instantly forgettable title of this nearly equally unmemorable campus comedy) is to clear a pretty low bar. It's not a film that needs to be seen on the big screen, but Life of the Party is more light-hearted and jovial than most other movies playing in theaters right now (independent and big-budget films alike) and should please the steadfast members of McCarthy's fanbase. Her shtick as a frumpy woman who blossoms under unusual circumstances always entertains.