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Review | ‘Life of the Party’ has some… life

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Molly Gordon, left, and Melissa McCarthy, center, in a scene from "Life of the Party", in theaters on May 11. AP

Life of the Party (Rated C)

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Julie Bowen, Gillian Jacobs

Genre: Comedy

Dwight’s rating:  Not Bad    

Don’t you just love Melissa McCarthy? How could you not?

This most exuberant actress seems to throw it all at the screen — and in a good way. Whether it’s comedy — her forte — or even when things get a little more serious, McCarthy is adept at tapping into her (and your) emotions with an endearing and relatable sincerity and vulnerability.

Even when she’s in something horrible, like the ridiculous “Tammy”; weak and poorly developed, like “The Boss”; passable, like “Identity Thief”; or likable, but beneath her talents, as seen in TV’s “Mike & Molly” (for which she even earned a Best Actress Emmy), McCarthy still gives it her all, and is likely to be the best thing about the whole production.

And when she’s associated with the right project, it’s pure gold and often genius. From her small role in “Bridesmaids” (which netted a surprise but well-deserved Supporting Oscar nomination), to starring roles in “The Heat” and “Spy”, to any time she’s been on TV’s “Saturday Night Live”, McCarthy has been amazing and simply unforgettable.

The new film “Life of the Party” falls smack-dab in the middle of McCarthy’s movie repertoire; it’s not the best thing with which she’s ever been associated, but it’s certainly no “Tammy”.

When her husband suddenly dumps her, longtime and dedicated housewife Deanna turns regret into reset by going back to college. Unfortunately, Deanna winds up at the same school as her less-than-thrilled daughter. Plunging headlong into the campus experience, the outspoken new student soon begins a journey of self-discovery while fully embracing all of the fun, freedom and frat boys that she can handle.

Showcasing her comic timing in a slightly more family-friendly forum than the often extremely potty-mouthed comedies for which McCarthy is known, “Life of the Party” is strangely rated “C” here (adults only), although the T-rating (viewers age 15 and older) would seem to be more appropriate (it’s PG-13 rated in the U.S.). It is an inoffensive and pleasant good time, and sweet but never too sappy.

It’s similar in feel and subject material to two other comedies with female leads this year — Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” and Leslie Mann in “Blockers”. While they are all well-meaning, “Life of the Party” is better resolved and more focused than the others, and more like a modern update of some of the lighthearted or screwball comedies from the 1930s or ’40s.

There aren’t any surprises. It’s not groundbreaking. Some will find it predictable. However, it is amusing, with some actually hilarious moments and a decent supporting cast.

But it’s undeniably McCarthy who makes it all the more worthwhile, and I can think of only a few other actresses who would have been as right for the part.

 

  • Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email dwight@nasguard.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.

 

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