Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Life of the Party

“The Death of Superman” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

There’s something naturally appealing to me about the “middle-aged college student” trope. Perhaps it’s because it serves as an affirmation that age is just a number and that one is never too old for gaining knowledge, getting a degree, and achieving a better life. Or it could be that this trope also shows that one is never too old for over-doing it on agave shots, having promiscuous sex, and doing the walk of shame the following morning. Probably both.

The middle-aged college student in “Life of the Party” is Deanna (Melissa McCarthy), or “Dee Rock” as she later becomes known. Shortly after she and her husband Dan (Matt Walsh) drop their daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) off for her senior year at Decatur University, Dan tells Deanna that he wants a divorce. Anyone who has been dumped and didn’t see it coming--particularly if you were dumped while in the passenger seat of a SUV—will relate to Deanna’s anguish and heart break.

“Life of the Party” keeps the tone light, however. After Deanna takes an Uber (driven in a cameo by the movie’s co-writer and director, as well as McCarthy’s real life husband, Ben Falcone) to her parents’ house we’re treated to an over the top scene where her mother (Jacki Weaver) wants to console her with food and her father (Stephen Root) wants to get his gun and hunt Dan down. As the scene escalates to a fevered pitch, we also learn that Deanna dropped out of her senior year at Decatur University in order to have Maddie. It’s now time for her to take control of her life and go back to school to finish her archaeology degree.


What makes “Life of the Party” work so well is McCarthy’s infectious charm. She has all of the attributes of a sweet Midwestern mother, right down to a lasagna recipe that cures the blues. She’s not just Maddie’s mother, she becomes the mother to Maddie’s entire sorority. They in turn regard her as one of them, and take her to parties.

It’s at one of these parties where Deanna meets Eugene (Chris Cavalier), a fraternity guy her daughter’s age. While I appreciate the movie giving Deanna the “win” of having this handsome frat boy fall in love with her, it stretches credulity a bit too far. However, their relationship does provide a fantastic twist that offers a very sweet pay off, so the movie is better off for having it.

The best scenes involve Deanna’s best pal Christine (Maya Rudolph). Whether Christine and Deanna are playing racquetball, in a divorce mediation meeting, or just talking over the phone, the energy and chemistry are there. “Life of the Party” shows the magic that can happen when funny people are put in a room together and allowed to be funny. Rent it.

Also New This Week

The Death of Superman

I’ve always liked the Warner Bros. superhero animation style, going back to the early to mid-nineties with “Batman: The Animated Series.” The style hasn’t changed much between then and now, and that’s just fine. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

What has changed in the jump from television to movies is the inclusion of more violence and blood. While “The Death of Superman” isn’t anywhere near as bloody as a “Suicide Squad” animated movie, it has its moments. Though a large portion of the movie’s 80-minute run time is devoted to Clark Kent (voice of Jerry O'Connell) trying to figure out a way to tell Lois Lane (voice of Rebecca Romijn) that he’s Superman.

Of course, as soon as that is done the destructive alien Doomsday shows up and it’s up to the Justice League—but mostly Superman—to save everyone. The title kind of gives away the ending, but it’s worth the watch for the knock down, drag out battle that ensues. Rent it and be sure to watch all the way to the very end to see the credit cookies.

More New Releases: “Wildling,” about a young girl held captive in a room who is made to fear evil creatures outside, starring Liv Tyler and Brad Dourif; “Breaking In,” about a woman who fights to protect her family from a home invasion, starring Gabrielle Union and Billy Burke; and “Pyewacket,” about a frustrated, angst-ridden teenage girl who awakens something in the woods when she naively performs an occult ritual to evoke a witch to kill her mother.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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