May 30, 2018

Life of the Party: Just-Dumped Divorcée Returns to College in Midlife Crisis Comedy

By Kam Williams

Deanna Miles (Melissa McCarthy) was a junior in college when she became pregnant and dropped out of school to have the baby. She married her boyfriend, Dan (Matt Walsh), who finished his degree and started his career while she remained a stay-at-home mom.

Fast forward to the present and we see the couple dropping off their now-grown daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) at their alma mater, Decatur University, where she’s about to begin her senior year. She’s moving back in with her girlfriends at the Theta Mu Gamma sorority house.

On the drive home, Dan tells Deanna that he’s canceled their planned month-long vacation in Italy and instead is filing for a divorce. Furthermore, he wants her out of the house, because it’s in his name alone. He explains to his shocked wife that, “I just needed an upgrade.”

Deanna is in a quandary about what to do next, because she’s never held a job or even graduated from college. So she decides to return to Decatur to finish her senior year along with her daughter. Of course Maddie is mortified at the idea of having her mother with her on campus.

That is the premise of Life of the Party, a comedy directed by Ben Falcone and co-written by Ben and his real-life wife, Melissa McCarthy. The movie marks the couple’s third collaboration, following Tammy (2014), and The Boss (2016). The movie is reminiscent of Back to School (1986), in which Rodney Dangerfield is a dad who decides to matriculate at the same college as his son.

Very Good (***). Rated PG-13 for sexuality, partying, and drug use. Running time: 105 minutes. Production Studios: New Line Cinema/ Warner Brothers/On the Day Productions. Distributor: New Line Cinema/Warner Brothers Pictures.