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Life of the Party (2018)

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/7/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/6/2018

There's an old adage in Hollywood which states that "nothing succeeds like success". In other words, doing well will lead you to continuing doing well. This accounts for how some big stars remain big stars. But, there is a flip-side to this idea which implies that too much success can be a bad thing. If a star makes too many appearances, they may experience backlash from the public. So, a delicate balance must be struck. Melissa McCarthy gained notoriety through her years on Gilmore Girls. Her world became much bigger with her performance in 2011's Bridesmaids, a role which landed an Oscar nomination. It wasn't long before McCarthy began getting lead roles in movies, appearing in at least one film a year, while still starring in TV's Mike & Molly. The question is, did she spread herself too thin? Life of the Party may point to this.

Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) is having an emotional day, as she's taking her daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon), to college for her senior year. However, Deanna's day is about to take a much more emotional turn, as her husband, Dan (Matt Walsh), tells her that he wants a divorce. This news rocks Deanna's world and she doesn't know what to do with herself, as she's spent nearly two decades as a stay-at-home mom. Given that she left college just a few credits shy of graduating, she decides to go back to school. Soon, Maddie finds herself sharing a campus with her mom. Deanna is very excited about getting her degree, but quickly learns that school has changed a lot since she left. However, her spirited attitude will lead her to make the most of her time in college.

There's no doubt that Life of the Party has a lot in common with the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield vehicle Back to School. Besides the fact that his character was rich and basically bought his way into school, the big difference here is that Thornton Melon was a blowhard who bulldozed through every situation. Deanna is a meek and mild-mannered mother who enters college with a dream and a kind-hearted disposition. As time goes by, Deanna begins to discover her true self and find a self-confidence that she hasn't known for years, as she had been living for her husband and daughter. The lesson here is that you should believe in yourself and follow your dreams.

So, yes, a huge chunk of Life of the Party is decidedly unoriginal. Thus, it's a good thing that McCarthy and her husband/creative partner Ben Falcone have injected their brand of silly and relatable humor into the film. Even better, McCarthy is not playing one of her obnoxious characters. In movies like Bridesmaids, Tammy, and Identify Thief, someone thought that it would be appealing for her to essay characters who were generally unappealing and repulsive. The thing which makes Life of the Party work is that Deanna is not only genuinely likable, but her innocence makes her approach to modern-day college a great source of comedy. Watching her encounter class, parties, and dating (?!) leads to some very funny moments. McCarthy and Falcone, who wrote the film together, have also filled the movie with quirky supporting roles as well, making this one of those movies which has a fairly simple and straight-forward story, but gets its comedy from bizarre and unorthodox situations.

Now, getting back to the question of McCarthy's over-exposure, one must look at the fact that Life of the Party was shot in 2016, but wasn't released until 2018. Why the delay? It would probably be an over-statement to say that the movie was "shelved", but the gap in time can't be ignored. I'm sure that there are those who would say that it was due to a matter of quality, but this movie was better than a lot of other recent comedies. I stand by the idea that following the backlash against 2016's Ghostbusters, McCarthy and her team wanted to play it safe with her next project. If you thought that the trailer for Life of the Party and thought that it looked pedestrian, take my advice and give it a try, especially if you are older than the college demographic. You'll find a comedy which understands suburban domestic ennui and the comedic gold to be found in generation gaps.

Life of the Party could have done without the awkward celebrity cameo in the finale courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing on overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The film is filled with bright tones and the colors look very good. The image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is impressive and the depth looks nice. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The party sequences deliver noteworthy surround and subwoofer effects, as the music brings us some nice bass. There are some moments in the classroom scenes which highlight sounds coming from off-screen.

The Life of the Party Blu-ray Disc contain a small assortment of extras. "'80s Party" (5 minutes) takes us on-set to see the making of the 1980s themed party. The piece focuses on the clothes and hair of the scene. "Mom Sandwich" (3 minutes) looks at how Jacki Weaver and Stephen Root played characters based on McCarthy's real parents. The Disc contains twenty-four DELETED SCENES which run about 46 minutes. Most of these are brief and the bulk are simply longer cuts of moments which are in the finished film. "Line-O-Rama: Line-O-Rama" (3 minutes) shows the actor trying various lines from a few different scenes. "Line-O-Rama: Bill Hate-O-Rama" (3 minutes) shows many different takes from the restaurant scenes. Finally, we have a 5-minute GAG REEL.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long