School daze, amuses

by Alen McMahon

At this stage, it’s pretty fair to say that the summer blockbusters have arrived, and they don’t get much more blockbustier than the new film based on a certain Star Wars rogue opening this weekend.

That film won’t exactly be flying Solo at the cinema – other big-budget blockbusters have also been battling away, with Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War laying waste to all before and around them – and that’s without the arrival of a certain group of Jurassic dinosaurs which are looming on the horizon, a couple of weeks away.

All this big-budget mayhem (and the lack of much space this week to do any of these big films justice) is enough to turn those looking for a breather towards a smaller film as a palate cleanser, such as Life of The Party (Cert 15A, 105 Mins).

Marking star Melissa McCarthy’s third collaboration with director (and husband) Ben Falcone, this party treads some very familiar ground on its journey towards one woman’s reawakening and rekindled zest for life.

Moving briskly along from the film’s start, Deanna (McCarthy) is suddenly dumped by her husband for another woman, and decides to return to college to complete a long abandoned degree, much to her daughter Maddie’s (Molly Gordon) chagrin. (Of course, they’re going to the same college, because of all the gin joints in all the world…)

At this stage, it’s very much a high-concept, easily grasped premise, and one where there’s not much wriggle room for McCarthy to bring out a little of her occasional unpredictability.
This kind of fish-out-of-water, kid-plus-parent college comedy used to be two a penny back in the day.

Still, although this film is firmly locked into ticking plenty of predictable boxes on its journey, with a triumphant destination never in doubt, it’s passable enough.
Mom reawakening; initially horrified kid seeing her in a new light; The Kids thinking mom rocks – check, check, check.

McCarthy has proven time and again that she can spin gold out of the weakest straw, as well as also picking some utter duds to showcase her talents.

This ain’t a classic McCarthy role – far from it – but she brings just enough of her likable enough empathy and believability (with a dash of squirm-inducing physicality) to bear on Deanna, aided and abetted by some decent support work, with an eccentric sidekick almost stealing the show.

A film that’s very much about the journey, not the destination, many of the jokes are low-grade stuff, although an amusingly kitsch 1980s-influenced sequence briefly lifts the bar with some well-landed gags, for those who remember the era (cough, cough).

Has it made the grade of a top-quality comedy? Not quite, I’m afraid, but while not a comedy masterclass, it passes the time well enough.
For that, I’ll grade this school-daze fare as a C+, which loosely coverts to … 6/10

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