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Life of the Party

Your mom goes to college.

Why is it called Life of the Party? It’s killing me. I don’t get it. Melissa McCarthy finds out her husband wants a divorce, so she enrolls in college and ends up going to school with her daughter. Life of the Party? Obviously Back to School was taken, but really, with a little imagination on the audience’s part, any of this week’s new major releases could have been called Life of the Party. It’s lazy and indicative of the film as a whole.

Ben Falcone, who has directed wife Melissa McCarthy before in Tammy and The Boss (along with their next sure-to-be-genius pairing, Superintelligence), is one of the few comedy directors working today who consistently gets worse with every new release. Normally, you see some growth, be it in the performances, editing, comic timing, etc., whether or not the films themselves get any more interesting. But Falcone is a next-level sociopath (that, or he found out about my Haneke of Comedy award, and this is his entry into the tournament, but I’m leaning toward the former).

McCarthy has found some kind of new groove for tormenting my senses with her manic eyes pleading desperately for a laugh, any laugh, while the screech in her voice surpasses even the bizarro characterization she brought to visionary director Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters. But at least she wears a bunch of “mom sweaters” and teases her hair up and giggles a lot, huh? That’s always funny.

And don’t ever let it be said that Falcone will settle for a boring old setup-punchline technique when he could take twice as long with every joke by overexplaining premises, dragging out the laugh breaks in the editing or even literally repeating punchlines for effect (this happens no fewer than six times, but it was probably more). And that wouldn’t even be unforgivable — this is a studio comedy after all — if the film also didn’t drop down the worst rabbit hole of all by presenting the big, rousing finale only to then follow that up with three more scenes that go absolutely nowhere and add nothing at all to either the story or the comedy. It’s embarrassing, frankly, and gave me those Begotten vibes I find myself experiencing all too often with these comedies recently, dragging you into this nether realm of tone and narrative structure that I imagine must be what it’s like to watch movies in hell.

I have so many questions. But I’ll end with two. Why don’t they just give more movies to Heidi Gardner and Gillian Jacobs? Gardner’s great as McCarthy’s creepy dorm mate, and Jacobs proves again how much she can do with so little, though her talent for physical comedy is ignored here. And what is Christina Aguilera doing in this movie? The college girls — in 2018, don’t forget — actually call her “the voice of our generation.” I’m the same age as Aguilera, and even when she first got big, no one was calling her the voice of anything. This is derangement to me. But she got paid, so at least someone got something out of all this.

  • FXF
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