Life of the Party

Just after dropping off daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) for her senior year at their alma mater, Decatur University, mom Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) begins to enthuse to husband Dan (Matt Walsh) about their upcoming month long Italian vacation. But Dan has an announcement - he wants a divorce - and after licking her wounds at her parents' (Jacki Weaver and Stephen Root) house, Deanna decides to complete her degree along with Maddie. To the surprise of everyone, Deanna becomes the "Life of the Party."

Laura's Review: C+

It's usually not a good sign when Melissa McCarthy teams up with hubby Ben Falcone, but "The Boss" did show slight improvement over their first effort "Tammy." I wasn't expecting much from what sounded like a rehash of Rodney Dangerfield's "Back to School," but "Life of the Party" has some sweet moments before it devolves into a series of increasingly unfunny set pieces in its last act. Consider this one, which largely avoids the raunch and gross-out gags that fuel so many so-called comedies, another slight movement forward for the McCarthy/Falcone brand. Deanna is the type of chipper, wholesome mom most college-aged kids would avoid and indeed, Maddie is a bit freaked out by mom's easy acceptance by pals Helen (Gillian Jacobs), the academically challenged one, Amanda (Adria Arjona), the pretty one, and Debbie (Jessie Ennis), the naive insecure one. Deanna, at least, isn't oblivious to her daughter's feelings and gives her space, returning to the dorm room she shares with Leonor (SNL's Heidi Gardner), an agoraphobic Goth. She's delighted to find that Helen's signed up for archeology class and thrilled to recognize the professor (Chris Parnell), whom she shares a love of puns with, as an old classmate. But when she tries to be helpful to a student sitting in front of her, Deanna gets her first dose of mean girl from Jennifer (Debby Ryan). Most of the film's fun comes into play when Deanna is convinced to attend a Frat Party with her daughter's pack. After entering the din, Maddie drags mom into a bathroom for a makeover and the results are so startling, Deanna catches the eye of Jack (Luke Benward), a friend of Maddie's DJ boyfriend Tyler ('Silicon Valley's' Jimmy O. Yang) and fellow appreciator of an oaky Chardonnay. Deanna's reports back home to her bestie Christine (the invaluable Maya Rudolph) about sex 'in the stacks' benefit Christine's husband Frank (Damon Jones) and cast 'Dee Rock' as middle-aged legend. McCarthy, who modeled the character on her own mom, is essentially reprising the arc of her "Spy" character right down to her costuming. The woman who wears cutesy pastel sweatshirts with Peter Pan collars, her hair a mess of hot-rollered curls, transforms into someone sweetly sexy. McCarthy trots out her physical comedy in a day drunk game of racquetball with Rudolph and an 80's dance-off with Ryan. But although the formulaic film can charm, it begins to wear out its welcome with the introduction of Marcie (Julie Bowen), Dan's new intended. Falcone's natural directorial flow begins to halt and sputter, the action turning into a series of forced sorority rituals, revenge antics and an impromptu Christina Aguilera concert. "Life of the Party" isn't a laugh riot, but it is amiable and McCarthy is winning. Grade:

Robin's Review: F