When I was a kid, I had movies like Revenge of the Nerds and Animal House to show me how fun college would be. There haven’t really been college party movies for girls until recently with The House Bunny and Neighbors 2. Hopefully Life of the Party will be this generation’s college party movie.
Deanna (Melissa McCarthy)’s daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) is a senior at Decatur University. DU would’ve been Deanna’s alma mater but she dropped out to have Maddie. After a divorce, Deanna decides to finish her senior year alongside her daughter.
It’s remarkable how much a gender swap innovates new material out of a traditional genre. Deanna has all the rowdy college sex, but with a young boy toy (Luke Benward).
There are so many things going on here, all positive. It’s age empowering, body positive and he gets to do the funny fawning all over the cool girl.
The sorority sisters have some rowdy partying, but it’s raucous with a moral compass. Revenge of the Nerds could’ve used one of those. They have their fun but still make things right.
They don’t play too much on Maddie’s embarrassment to have her mom tag along. There’s enough that it’s not unrealistically ignoring that issue (I mean, couldn’t Deanna have waited one more year to enroll?) but the focus is on positivity and support.
Maddie knows what her mom sacrificed for her and certainly knows her dad (Matt Walsh) is the villain in the divorce. Sure, it’d be nice to have a free senior year but empowering her mother is more important.
It’s sweet how Maddie helps her have fun at college, because that’s what she missed out on more than the education. Deanna empowers Maddie and her sorority sisters too.
They have fears about the future, whether jobs or dating, and Deanna is so inspiring it’s infectious. Even I think everything’s going to be okay now, and I’m 40. Life of the Party is truly the feel good movie of the summer.
An ‘80s dance party and oral presentation give us the classic Melissa McCarthy physical comedy. There may be a few improv bits that go on too long but nothing that stops the movie cold.
It’s not just the McCarthy show either. All the sorority sisters get to be memorable characters too, particularly coma girl Helen (Gillian Jacobs) who got an eight year late start on her education.
Debbie (Jessie Ennis) always asking permission will speak to a lot of people as will her friends’ undying support and encouragement. Deanna’s creepy roommate Leonor (Heidi Gardner)’s utter commitment to the bit is endearing.
Amanda (Adria Arjona) is both fierce and vulnerable. Even mean girl Jennifer (Debby Ryan) seems to get what makes girls like Jennifer abusive.
My hope is truly for Life of the Party to inspire a generation to look forward to college, but there’s a wider audience too. A lot of mothers did give up school or careers for their children. Maybe this could speak to lots of people on both ends of the graduation gown.
Life of the Party is in theaters Friday, May 11.