A big hand for the strong and enduring marriage of comic phenom Melissa McCarthy and comic Ben Falcone. And it’s also impressive that McCarthy has made it a point to give her showbiz husband a leg up thanks to her success.
But trusting him to co-write her scripts, leveraging her box office appeal to get him behind the camera, directing “The Boss” and “Tammy?” You don’t see Kevin Hart, who needs to SAVE his marriage, doing that. Tom Hanks may support Rita Wilson’s late life lounge singer ambitions. He’s not entrusting his work to her. With good reason.
Because Falcone’s latest, “Life of the Party,” is death itself.
There’s nobody there to push her, nobody on set with the power and emotional remove to tell McCarthy that they need another take, they need funnier lines, or that her decision to go with halting, wait for the rim-shot line-readings do no make the unfunny script funny.
She plays a housewife, ditched by her husband (Matt Walsh, colorless here) on the day they drop their daughter (Molly Gordon) off for her senior year in college. Deanna, the mom, is lost until she decides to enroll at Decatur U. and finish the degree she gave up for marriage.
Lots and lots of scenes have McCarthy in her frosted-tips “Mom Perm,” sporting bedazzled alma mater-wear and trying to fit in with the hip kids half her age as she waddles to class.
“Go Tigers, right? “Mondays, huh?” “There’s always that one, right?”
There’s a little midwestern mom in this Georgia mom and her hot-dishes, her smocks and clip-on earrings, dropping into daughter Maggie’s sorority.
“I brought snacks!”
Scene after scene starts off stale and isn’t rescued by riffing. The supportive sorority girls (Gillian Jacobs, Debbie Ryan, Adria Arjona) may counsel “Party through it…We need to get you jack-hammer blasted,” to cope with divorce. Deanna may acquire college kid nicknames — Dee Dee, Dee-Roc. She may find an unlikely college friend-with-benefits (Luke Benward).
And a frat house may throw an ’80s Night party, allowing the ladies to doll up like “Dallas.” Dee Dee gets her ’80s dance moves on, a low highlight of the picture.
None of it plays that funny. Even comic MVP Maya Rudolph, playing the foul-mouthed hard-drinking BFF, struggles to deliver a giggle. Chris Parnell is introduced as Deanna’s college classmate, now her archaeology professor, and given nothing to play.
It’s all harmless enough, but charmless as well. Wrapping messages about women supporting each other (and not stealing each other’s husbands or being mean girls in college) fall flat without more comic pop surrounding them.
If McCarthy’s still getting pitched scripts from studios all over Hollywood, she’d be wise to give up the co-written ones with her husband. Falcone’s not at full-tilt Tom Arnold here. But Melissa is heading towards a serious “MRS. Norman Maine” reckoning if her not-funny other half keeps misusing her talent in crap like “Life of the Party.”
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual material, drug content and partying
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Gillian Jacobs, Molly Gordon, Matt Walsh, Julie Bowen, Stephen Root, Chris Parnell and Luke Benward
Credits:Directed by Ben Falcone, script by Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy. A Warner Brothers release.
Running time: 1:45