Critics Consensus

Life of the Party Crashes

Plus, Breaking In lacks thrills, but Showtime's Patrick Melrose is an incisive drama, and Revenge and Beast are Certified Fresh.

by | May 10, 2018 | Comments

This weekend at the movies, we have Melissa McCarthy stirring memories of the Triple Lindy (Life of the Party, co-starring Molly Godron Gillian Jacobs) and  Gabrielle Union teaching some unlucky kidnappers a few tough lessons in a mother’s love  (Breaking In, co-starring Ajiona Alexus and Billy Burke). What are the critics saying?

Life of the Party (2018) 38%

College: a time and place for young people to discover who they are by seeking out new experiences and daring to try new things outside the bonds of family. Usually, anyway — sometimes your mom ends up going back to school at your university and totally (albeit unintentionally) harshing your vibe. Such is life for Life of the Party‘s Maddie Miles (Molly Gordon), who finds herself sharing a campus with her mother Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) after her parents split up. It’s a painful new chapter for Deanna, but she turns lemons into lemonade by — as one might reasonably infer from the title — discovering her inner twentysomething, taking full advantage of college life so enthusiastically that her fellow co-eds nickname her Dee Rock. If you’re reading this and thinking you’ve seen these storyline beats play out before in Rodney Dangerfield‘s Back to School, well, you aren’t far off; unfortunately, critics say it’s nowhere near as funny this time around. McCarthy remains a fierce talent, and she’s surrounded with a terrific supporting cast here, including Maya Rudolph, Gillian Jacobs, and Matt Walsh, but reviews describe Life of the Party as a frustratingly middling comedy that never really figures out what to do with all that talent and fails to produce consistent laughs. With all these funny people in one place, the end result isn’t without a few moments, but all things considered, this is a serviceable premise that’s already been explored to more entertaining effect.

Breaking In (2018) 27%

As Sally Field taught us in Not Without My Daughter, there’s no situation too dangerous or daunting to keep a mother from her child — and this weekend, Gabrielle Union is delivering that lesson all over again with Breaking In, in which hell hath no fury like a woman whose kids have been taken captive and held for ransom in a home equipped with a seemingly impenetrable security system. It’s an appealingly gonzo setup for a movie being released in time for Mother’s Day, and Union, always a strong screen presence, would seem to be well-matched for the role of a woman prepared to prove that, as the poster promises, “payback is a mother.” Alas, what looks interesting on paper often tends to lose its way on the journey to the big screen, and that appears to be the case for Breaking In. Critics say that while Union is clearly committed to the role — and the best thing about the movie — it isn’t enough to make up for thinly sketched characters and a slapdash plot that evaporates under scrutiny. Union deserves more chances to prove she can carry a picture — and hopefully, this won’t be the last time Hollywood serves up a left-field choice for Mother’s Day weekend — but in the meantime, this is one thriller you don’t need to rush out and see.

What’s New on TV

Patrick Melrose: Miniseries (2018) 90%

Patrick Melrose is a scathing indictment of British high society’s inherited dysfunction, cruelty, and the wealth that enables them. The Crown this ain’t.

Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • The Escape (2017) , starring Gemma Arterton as a woman who abandons her life and family to start over somewhere new, is at 92%.
  • Beast (2017) , about a man and woman whose relationship is tested after he’s arrested as the key suspect in a series of murders, is Certified Fresh at 91%.
  • Revenge (2017) , in which a young woman (Matilda Lutz) pursues the titular satisfaction after being brutalized and left for dead by a group of men, is at 91%.
  • Mountain (2017) , a documentary about the world’s towering natural vistas and the people who climb them, is at 90%.
  • Class Rank (2017) , a high school comedy from director Eric Stoltz, is at 88%.
  • Filmworker (2017) , a documentary look at Leon Vitali, whose behind-the-scenes presence was instrumental in Stanley Kubrick‘s career, is at 87%.
  • Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat (2017) , a documentary about the young life and early career of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, is at 86%.
  • Lu Over the Wall (2017) , the latest anime outing from director Masaaki Yuasa, is at 81%.
  • The Day After (2017) , a relationship drama from prolific writer-director Hong Sang-soo, is at 79%.
  • The Seagull (2018) , a new adaptation of the Chekhov play starring Annette Bening and Saoirse Ronan, is at 73%.
  • Anything (2017) , a drama about the seemingly unlikely friendship that develops between a middle-aged man and his new transgender neighbor, is at 56%.
  • Measure of a Man (2018) , a coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy in the mid-’70s, is at 50%.
  • Always at the Carlyle (2018) , a documentary about the titular New York hotel, is at 20%.
  • Terminal (2018) , starring Margot Robbie in the story of two hitmen who take a job and realize they might be in over their heads, is at 7%.