Movie review: ‘Life of the Party’

Melissa McCarthy creates student unrest in hit-or-miss new comedy

By Rick Romancito
Posted 5/20/18

Melissa McCarthy can be really funny. She can have you rolling in the aisles and nail you with a real by-cracky knee-slapper ...

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Movie review: ‘Life of the Party’

Melissa McCarthy creates student unrest in hit-or-miss new comedy


Melissa McCarthy can be really funny. She can have you rolling in the aisles and nail you with a real by-cracky knee-slapper.

But, she can also sitcom her way through a formulaic movie throwing out awkward quips right and left until something sticks. This might satisfy her fans just fine, as her latest “Back to Sch ...” er “Life of the Party” attests, but we suspect a pretty decent actor lurks underneath that slapstick exterior.

That non sequitur was my ham-fisted reference to a 1987 Rodney Dangerfield comedy that bears a slight resemblance to McCarthy’s new flick. In that movie, Dangerfield played a wealthy businessman who enrolls at his kid’s college to help him get inspired in ways only a Dangerfield fan can appreciate.

But, in McCarthy’s movie, the star plays a woman named Deanna who has been locked into some kind of Midwestern-1950s-Mike Pencian fantasy of homespun wifeliness. No sooner has she and her über-repressed hubby (Matt Walsh) dropped off their doe-eyed offspring Maddy (Molly Gordon) for her senior year of college than hubby blurts out the one thing he’s been sitting on for the entire opening sequence: He wants a divorce.

What we learn later is what he really wants is an “upgrade” after falling for a thin, blonde and ambitious real estate agent named Marcie (Julie Bowen). This, of course, comes as a shock to Deanna who has been oblivious to his “feelings.”

Suddenly, she’s in a tailspin, but she gets support from her best friend Christine (Maya Rudolph), who helps her realize she should take this as an opportunity to better herself. Deanna then remembers she was one year away from getting a degree in archaeology when she became pregnant with her daughter, and her husband demanded she stay home with the baby.

Admitting her dream has always been to get that degree, Deanna decides to go back to school at, you guessed it, her daughter’s college.

Of course, if you saw Rodney Dangerfield’s “Back to School,” you might expect certain things of the plot once the matriculation begins, but since the film has a mildly feminist twist, Deanna’s approach involves unexpectedly making friends with her daughter’s sorority sisters, standing up for herself when stereotypical mean girls do their thing, partying all night, and discovering what it’s like to do the walk of shame from a frat house — with her daughter.

Yes, quite a bit here could be really funny, but McCarthy’s humor relies a lot on watching her character deal with situations that’d probably make most people melt away in embarrassment or disgust. And, yet, we get it.

She’s like an emotional a stunt woman, doing things a highly paid actor hasn’t the skills or courage to try. She’s willing to put herself into unbearable situations, so we don’t have to. And, she’s not Amy Schumer.

Still, watch at your own peril.

“Life of the Party” is rated PG-13 for sexual material, drug content and partying.

It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit

Also showing in Taos

The following was edited from press materials


MPAA rating: PG for some thematic elements and language

Movies at the TCA

Marking her 25th year on the U.S. Supreme Court, “RBG” is a revelatory documentary exploring Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s exceptional life and career.

At the age of 84, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg has created a breathtaking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected intergenerational heroine and pop culture icon. But even many of her ardent admirers don’t know the unique personal journey of this diminutive, quiet warrior’s rise to the nation’s highest court: as a young lawyer, Ginsburg was a legal architect of the modern women’s rights movement.

Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen develop a multidimensional portrait of the Justice through intimate interviews with family, friends, colleagues, and critics, along with vérité scenes and archival news footage documenting her career, family photographs and exclusive home movies. The filmmakers expertly weave Justice Ginsburg’s speeches and writings together with an extraordinary interview with the Justice herself, in which she discusses, in quietly profound terms, her upbringing, passions and finding love with her husband, Marty, whom she credits with making her profession possible.

West’s and Cohen’s access to Ginsburg for the film even included her exercise workouts with a trainer, sharing coffee at home with her granddaughter, and rehearsing backstage for a speaking role with the Washington National Opera. What emerges is a fresh and fierce authenticity, a more complete, inspiring portrait of Ginsburg than ever seen before: a complex jurist, woman, scholar, grandmother, opera lover, wife, mother, daughter, warrior and citizen

Join the Taos Film Society for a lively, free discussion about this film after the Sunday matinee in the lobby.

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (May 20), and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (May 21-23).

Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit


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