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Movie Review: 'Life Of The Party'

I sat down to write this review of Melissa McCarthy’s new comedy Life of the Party, and I was prepared to be super snarky. That generic title, the uninspired storyline -- it was ripe for me to really dig my teeth into it.

But then… I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t do it because while Life of the Party isn’t, you know, what you would call “funny,” for the most part it really means well. It’s generally not out to hurt anyone, it’s supportive of its characters, and it’s basically just out to have a good time. I might feel that it failed at that last part, but not to the extent that it deserves the negativity I was prepared to level against it. Sometimes it’s ok just to let it go.

In Life of the Party, McCarthy stars as the mother of a college senior who, just after dropping her daughter off for the beginning of the new school year, is blindsided by her husband who announces he wants a divorce. This, of course, causes McCarthy to evaluate her life, at which point she decides she wants to go back to college to finish the degree she never earned after she chose to quit school to raise a family. She’s quickly accepted by her daughter’s sorority, much to her child’s initial dismay, and after they give her a makeover that mostly consists of taking off her glasses and changing her hair a bit, McCarthy falls into the typical college routines, going to class, going to parties, getting hit on by bartenders, and so on—all while being treated as kind of a rock star by much of the student body, except for a few mean girls who think she’s a bit of a joke.

And this is all fine, but ultimately there’s just not that much to it. If, on some level, this reminds you of Rodney Dangerfield’s 1986 movie Back to School, you’re certainly not alone. And while I wouldn’t say that that movie was a comedy masterpiece, people do, at least, remember it. Despite its good intentions, I’m not sure that in 30 years we’ll be able to say the same thing about Life of the Party.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.