The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Life of the Party

Melissa McCarthy is undeniably one of the funniest people on the planet, but the movies she's made with her husband, writer/director Ben Falcone, have been among her least successful. Tammy is no Spy, and the less said about The Boss, the better. With Life of the Party, they finally get one (mostly) right. Even if not on the level of Bridesmaids or The Heat, it's funny on a consistent-enough basis to provide some fun.

Life of the Party comes to Blu-ray combo pack and DVD on August 7.

McCarthy plays Deanna Miles. Just moments after dropping her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) off for her senior year of college, Deanna gets the devastating news that her husband Dan (Matt Walsh) is filing for divorce. Needing to get back on track, she decides to rectify her life's biggest regret by finishing college. As you've probably guessed, she applies to Maddie's school. As if that isn't awkward enough, the tragically un-hip Deanna ends up bonding with her daughter's friends Helen (Gillian Jacobs), Amanda (Adria Arjona), and Debbie (Jessie Ennis). She also dates a male student and engages in war with a crew of mean girls.

Life of the Party largely ignores its most potentially funny idea, which is the humiliation of having one of your parents come to school with you and engage in all the same immature shenanigans that you do. The story is absolutely told from Deanna's point of view only. Despite that, the film finds plenty of other sources of humor, from Deanna's rejuvenation upon sleeping with a guy half her age, to the difficulties of readjusting to academic life. A scene in which she gets nervous giving a class speech, for example, allows McCarthy to do the kind of physical humor she excels at.

There's a little more heart to the movie than it may seem. Most of the picture is a goofy fish-out-of-water story set at a university, but by the end, we can see how Deanna evolves. McCarthy nails the comedic moments. She's just as good in a few grounded moments during the third act, showing how the character re-finds herself in the wake of divorce. Unlike the rough-edged title character in Tammy and the downright obnoxious Michelle in The Boss, Deanna is a likable, earnest person, so we easily cheer her transformation.

Although clearly designed as a vehicle for its star, McCarthy is generous enough to allow others to shine. Jacobs and Ennis prove to be hilarious supporting players, as does Heidi Gardner as Deanna's Goth roommate. They provide some extra flavor to the movie.

Life of the Party is one of those good-natured pictures that wins you over with its charm. No, it's not Melissa McCarthy's best film. It is amiable and funny, though, which makes it worth a look for any fan of its star.

( out of four)

Blu-ray Features:

Life of the Party will be released on Blu-ray combo pack and DVD August 7. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided a complimentary copy of the Blu-ray for the purposes of this review.

The extras begin with "'80s Party," a five-minute look at a notable scene from the movie in which Deanna and pals attend an '80s-themed bash, complete with era-appropriate clothing. "Mom's Sandwich" runs about three minutes, and details how McCarthy's mother's obsession with sandwiches became a joke in the movie.

Next up are 45 minutes of deleted/extended scenes. They give you a sense of some of the various jokes and ideas that were tried. "Line-o-Rama" serves a similar purpose. It's a collection of unused ad-libs. "Bill Hate-o-Rama" is the same thing, but specifically a barrage of comic insults aimed at one particular character, the obnoxious husband of Deanna's friend. Finally, there's a five-minute gag reel showing McCarthy and other cast members goofing around and messing up lines.

Life of the Party looks and sounds excellent on Blu-ray. A digital copy of the film is included in the pack.

Life of the Party is rated PG-13 for sexual material, drug content and partying. The running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.

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