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Thursday, 10 May 2018

Life Of The Party

(M) ★★

Director: Ben Falcone.

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Molly Gordon, Gillian Jacobs, Luke Benward, Maya Rudolph, Matt Walsh, Adria Arjona, Jessie Ennis, Debby Ryan, Julie Bowen, Heidi Gardner, Jacki Weaver, Stephen Root.

"Anyone wanna just go home and watch re-runs of Friends?"
Is there a genre called "mom-com"? If so, this is a mom-com - an American comedy about a "mom" aimed at "moms".

While some mothers and others may get a few laughs out of this, Life Of The Party is so predictable and cliched that it quickly and repeatedly becomes boring, and it's more the shame that McCarthy can't get this party started.

She plays Deanna, who is thrust into a mid-life crisis by a sudden divorce from her husband of 22 years Dan (Walsh). The separation comes as their daughter Maddie (Gordon) begins her final year of college, sparking a renewed desire in Deanna to complete the degree she dropped out of when she became pregnant 21 years ago.

So guess what? Mom's going to college!

On paper, it's a winning recipe. You've got the usually funny McCarthy (who appeals to young and old alike) in the lead, but you've also got a college setting to appeal to the teens. and a broad-enough style of humour to appeal to pretty much everyone else over the age of 14.

But it's exactly as you expect it to be, only not as funny as it should be. Life Of The Party's "mom goes to college" premise suggests wild parties, sorority initiations, unwitting drug ingestion, bizarre sexual encounters, fish-out-of-water antics, and a generation gap big enough to drive a school bus through, and the film has all those things. But it rarely surprises, it never shocks, and it is lacking in laughs for too long. As a result, the whole thing is somewhat tiresome.

Written by McCarthy and her director husband Falcone, the movie is at its best when doing the unexpected and pushing its characters a bit harder. A subplot revelation late in the film is a winner, as is any scene featuring Rudolph.

In some ways it's a relief the film steers away from gross-out humour, or Old School-style OTT antics, and even that it keeps its mother-daughter awkwardness to a minimum. But what's left is so safe as to be soporific in spots, and the film's predictability continually undoes its potential appeal.

It's not a total loss. Its themes about mid-life crises and the sacrifices women make for their families are interesting, although they are dealt with all too fleetingly.

The real highlight is a handful of performances. The aforementioned Rudolph steals every scene she's in, Jacobs is great as one of Maddie's friends, and Bowen and Walsh are suitably hissable. Unfortunately Weaver and Root are wasted, and McCarthy's character waivers too much between annoying and adorable in places.

The film eventually hits something of a stride, but there's never enough at stake and it's never funny enough. This college film doesn't get a pass.

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