A fish-out-of-water comedy with shades of 2008's irresistible "The House Bunny" glistening in the light, the college-set "Life of the Party" is perhaps not quite as pinprick-sharp as that Anna Faris vehicle, but it's almost as winning while it's buzzing along. Much of the credit must go to the indefatigable Melissa McCarthy (2016's "Ghostbusters"), deservedly the focal point in every scene as she crafts yet another very funny, deeply sympathetic protagonist. She plays Deanna Miles (Melissa McCarthy), a devoted wife and mother who is left shell-shocked when her husband of twenty-two years, Dan (Matt Walsh), abruptly tells her he's been having an affair and wants a divorce. For a woman who sacrificed her senior year of college to care for her family, the news comes like a punch to the gut. Faced with starting her life over in her forties, she enthusiastically concocts a plan to return to Decatur University—the same school daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) attends—to earn her archaeology degree.
The third big-screen collaboration between McCarthy and her writer-director husband Ben Falcone (following 2014's "Tammy" and 2016's "The Boss"), "Life of the Party" earns a lot of points for defying expectations in a few key ways. The trajectory of the narrative is never in question, but it's the getting-there where Falcone and McCarthy (who co-wrote the screenplay together) excel. For one, Deanna has a healthy, loving, refreshingly unrocky relationship with daughter Maddie, the latter's trepidations over her mom joining the same university and hanging out with her sorority sisters tackled and overcome quickly. That Maddie wants to help her mother feel like she belongs—yes, there is an amusing bathroom makeover scene involving a stranger's very hairy brush—is rather heartwarming. Likewise, Maddie's friends—among them, former coma patient Helen (Gillian Jacobs) and Glenn Close super-fan Debbie (Jessie Ennis)—latch onto Deanna quickly, seeing her not as a square but as an older, wiser pal in whom they can confide while they show her the ropes of 21st-century college life.
See Dustin Putman, TheFilmFile.com. for full review