• by Wes Singleton

Life of the Party, B-

Rated PG-13, 105 minutes

The entertaining new Melissa McCarthy comedy "Life of the Party" is a pleasant surprise, in that it's not as bad as other McCarthy efforts "Tammy" and "The Boss." It's still ridiculously silly, and McCarthy's normally brusque comedy, which can often rub people the wrong way, is given some softer edges here, making it more tolerable and yes, funny.

When her husband Dan ("Veep's Matt Walsh) suddenly dumps her, longtime and dedicated housewife Deanna (McCarthy) turns regret into reset by going back to college. Unfortunately, Deanna winds up at the same school as her less-than-thrilled daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon). Plunging headlong into the campus experience, Deanna aka Dee Rock soon begins a journey of self-discovery while fully embracing all of the fun, freedom and frat boys that she can handle.

The crowd-pleasing "Life of the Party" is laugh-out-loud enjoyable and while it's certainly nothing new, it's still McCarthy's best comedy in years. The sweet themes and tone are unlike the mean-spirit or unsympathetic characters of some McCarthy efforts, and it certainly helps she has a solid supporting cast, including Walsh, "Modern Family's" Julie Bowen and especially one of the funniest people alive, Maya Rudolph (yes, she's even funnier than McCarthy), to help her out. Rudolph steals so many scenes in a weird Mom hairdo with a look or quip, and it's obvious the two "Bridesmaids" share a warm chemistry.

Aside from a mean-spirited scene in which they destroy the wedding reception of her ex,  "Life of the Party" is filled with many hilarious scenes, including one in a restaurant in which a lot of big discoveries are made, to an '80s dance party romp, and a sweat-filled scene in which McCarthy has to give a speech in front of a class. It's all calculated stuff that plays to McCarthy's strengths as a comedian, this time with a character you may actually like.

McCarthy's husband Ben Falcone (who makes his usual cameo alongside his wife) directs and co-writes the script with McCarthy, but honestly, McCarthy's energy is better than the weak script, which doesn't skillfully develop its characters or provide much insight or plot details. Still, throw in a fun Christina Aguilera cameo singing her hit "Stronger" it's something you can laugh at and tap your toe to as well.

"Life of the Party" won't win awards for originality or intelligence, but it brings back McCarthy to good form, and yes, you will laugh. And for pete's sake, let's see more of the always-hilarious Rudolph, who needs her own movie or TV series. Someone in Hollywood get on that now.

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