With a recycled plot that is straight out of an 80s film, the Melissa McCarthy vehicle, Life of the Party hits blu-ray and DVD this week from Warner Brothers.
Despite using all of the university and college tropes that have been in play since National Lampoon’s Animal House, the film arguably takes the story and makes it its own by adding a rather empowering story at its heart.
McCarthy is Deanna, and as he daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) is leaving for her last year of university, her husband, Dan (Matt Walsh) drops a bomb on her, he wants a divorce, and he is in love with someone else.
This happens within the first ten minutes of the film, as does no less than three characters talking about the fact that Deanna never finished university (she dropped out to raise Maddie, while Dan finished his courses). So we’ve got the crux of the plot right there, middle-aged mom goes back to university and discovers her passion for life again.
It’s been done before, and often, and while I am not the biggest McCarthy fan, she brings this version of the story to life fairly admirably. Sure there are no big twists, no Oscar winning performances, and the story isn’t very in depth, but it doesn’t want to be, it just wants to be funny (which it often is) and empower its lead characters, and by extension its viewing audience into realising that they have choices, they have the power, they can shake the world.
Pairing McCarthy with Gordon, and all of the actors who play Maddie’s friends, including Gillian Jacobs, makes for a fun vibe, and there are some nice moments between all of them, as the whole concept of women building up women is brought (sometimes not so subtly) to the fore.
Maya Rudolph plays Deanna’s best ‘adult’ friend, who enjoys hearing all of the things the revitalised Deanna gets up to, especially some entertaining carnal exploits, and the pair have a nice chemistry together.
Deanna even has a very definable arc, which she states very clearly near the beginning of the film, so you know where she’s going to end up, but it is actually pretty enjoyable to watch her follow that arc, as she stumbles a number of times along the way, often to comedic, but also to believable effect – public speaking, and dealing with Dan’s impending wedding.
I’ll admit, I was pleasantly surprised by this one – I went in with low expectations, but found myself laughing aloud far more often than I thought I would. I also made sure to hand around for the extras, which included a look at the film’s too-short 80s party, a gag reel, and alternate takes and improvs on a number of the scenes in the film.
For McCarthy fans, this one is a mist, and for those who want a bit of a throwback to an 80s era higher learning comedy, this one should tick the box.
Life of the Party hits blu-ray and DVD today from Warner Brothers.