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The great Melissa McCarthy suffers from the Ben Falcone curse yet again in Life of the Party, a shitty Back to School rip-off—which makes it double-shitty, because Back to School sucked.

Falcone is McCarthy’s husband, and he has now directed her in three movies, all bad. Tammy was one of McCarthy’s worst films, while The Boss was better but still pretty terrible.

McCarthy plays Deanna, a frumpy middle-aged mom with a daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon), going into her last year in college. Within minutes of dropping their daughter off at school, her husband (Matt Walsh) dumps her for a real estate agent played by an actress from Modern Family (Julie Bowen).

A dejected Deanna decides to enroll in school—a shockingly easy process in this film—and finds herself not only attending college alongside her daughter, but hanging out with her and her sorority sisters. She’s considered a square at first, but a quick makeover during a party has her emerge as the coolest new girl on campus.

Before long, she’s pulling all-nighters in frat houses with her new boyfriend (Luke Benward) in one of the film’s few likable aspects. (McCarthy and Benward are somewhat funny together.) She’s also break-dancing at ’80s themed parties, and desecrating the wedding cake at her ex-husband’s wedding. Basically, it’s a film full of comic setups that feel torturously familiar and ripped off. I’m surprised McCarthy didn’t bust out a vocal rendition of “Twist and Shout” à la Rodney Dangerfield at the ’80s party.

The movie is populated with characters played by stellar actresses who could’ve used some more screen time. Gillian Jacobs plays Helen, a genuinely funny character in concept: She’s an adult college student in school after spending eight years in a coma. Her story probably would’ve made for a more interesting movie, but the screenplay buries her deep in the background. The same goes for Heidi Gardner, one of the bright spots on this season of Saturday Night Live, as Leonor, Deanna’s goth roommate who never leaves their room and likes to hide in their closet. She’s funny, and rather than use her more, she’s saved for a dopey punch-line involving Christina Aguilera.

I’m always amazed when a film with McCarthy in it is awful, because she’s so damned good. Movies like Life of the Party make me mad at the movie, and not the star at its center. She does what she can with lousy material, and even manages to squeak out two or three genuine laughs. But her material here is her enemy.

The film starves for that moment when McCarthy transcends the material and lets loose in the way that only she can. It’s PG-13, so her penchant for profanity-laced dialogue art is mostly stifled, although she gets in a couple of good ones involving Google and her vagina.

Instead, we get scenes like Deanna getting nervous and sweaty during a midterm speech, and her trying to get laughs out of pit stains. There’s also an agonizing dance-off between her and one of the school’s mean girls, culminating in a stunt woman busting out those aforementioned break-dance moves. It’s beneath McCarthy’s talents in every way.

I’m thrilled that McCarthy and Falcone are happily married and working together—something tough to pull off in nasty Hollywood—but the fruits of their union are not magical in the cinematic sense. They should put the “making movies together” part of their relationship on ice. It’s just not working out.

Life of the Party is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

The ballad of Mickey and Gus (Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust) comes to a satisfying conclusion in the third and final season of Love on Netflix.

Whenever I watched this show, co-produced by Judd Apatow, I wound up binging it over the weekend it came out. In other words … I watched all of the episodes quickly—and happily. Rust and Jacobs have proven to be one of TV’s all-time-great, and most-realistic, couples since the show premiered in 2016, and I’m actually quite sorry to see their saga has ended. I would like to see a season of this every year until I die.

Season 3 starts with two episodes directed by Michael Showalter, who hit his big-screen stride with last year’s The Big Sick. Showalter starts the season off with sure footing, and the momentum continues thereafter. Apatow himself directs an episode, all of which are consistently hilarious.

On top of the entertaining Mickey and Gus dysfunction, Claudia O’Doherty continues getting laughs as Bertie, Mickey’s roommate. Season 3 spends more time on Bertie and her strange boyfriend, Randy (Mike Mitchell), a relationship as funny as the central one.

Mickey and Gus still fight all the way up to the show’s ending, which I found to be incredibly heartwarming … and a little insane. That’s how this show made me feel the entire time watching it.

Love is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Eccentric comedic actor Brett Gelman gets a much-deserved starring vehicle in Lemon as Isaac, a theater teacher going through some troubles with his blind girlfriend (Judy Greer).

She starts getting antsy, and his behavior gets weirder and weirder, especially when it comes to student Alex (a very funny Michael Cera). Let’s just say things don’t go well when Alex comes over to hang out … yet that occurrence is one of the more normal ones in Isaac’s life. As his relationship and acting career crumble—he’s the spokesman for Hep C!—he tries to date others. That ends with him escaping a party with his date’s grandmother. (To repeat: Isaac is weird.)

The film meanders a bit, and never has a true sense of purpose, yet somehow, it all works just fine. Director Janicza Bravo, who co-wrote the script with Gelman, makes an impressively strange directorial debut, thanks in large part to Gelman being her star.

Gelman is one of those character actors who basically shows up in everything and cracks you up—yet you never remember his name. Maybe now we will start to remember him, because he’s been kicking mortal comedy ass for years.

The supporting cast includes Jeff Garlin, Megan Mullally and Gillian Jacobs, who co-starred with Gelman on Netflix’s Love.

Lemon is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

If you missed the first season of Love, an excellent romantic comedy series on Netflix, get on it. It’s a true gem.

Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust are back for a second season as Mickey and Gus, one of the most realistically clumsy couples ever depicted on film. Mickey is a drug and sex addict, while Gus is a nebbish nerd tutoring movie stars. They look like a strange, impossible couple, and they pretty much are—but they are also sweet together in a dysfunctional way, with Jacobs and Rust setting off constant comedy fireworks.

Claudia O’Doherty is consistently hilarious as Mickey’s roomie, Bernie.

This has the feel of some of the better movies by Judd Apatow, who is a co-creator of the show—yet it just keeps on going and going. Season 2 is already up on Netflix, available for binge watching, while Season 3 has already been announced.

The ballad of Mickey and Gus is classic TV, and yet another positive story for Netflix. The streaming service has really gotten it together these last couple of years. 

Love is currently streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

I binge-watched Netflix’s new series Love—the latest by producer Judd Apatow—and it stands as further proof that Netflix is becoming the king of TV comedy.

Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs are terrific as Gus and Mickey, two people who meet by chance at a convenience store and become friends. Friendship progresses into other things—and that progression happens in a crazy, unpredictable, very R-rated way.

Rust is a revelation as the nerdy Gus, a tutor at a TV studio where they are filming one of those dopey witch shows. Jacobs, so good on Community, proves she has much to offer with her wild turn as a radio-station employee with a shitty boss (Brett Gelman) and just a few addictions.

As their courtship begins, Gus sort of pines for Mickey, but things change over the course of 10 episodes, as he gets a little more confidence in himself—and notices she’s a bit of a jerk. The first season ends in a satisfying way—and since Netflix has already ordered a second season, you know you’ll be getting more good stuff.

Other performers include a hilarious Claudia O’Doherty as Bertie, Mickey’s polite and slightly deranged roommate. Iris Apatow is proof that nepotism can be awesome as Arya, a child actress prone to tantrums, yet somehow more intelligent than anybody else on the set. Briga Heelan is sweet and funny as Heidi, an actress who is complicating things between Gus and Mickey.

The show’s episodes flow into one another, so it feels like one long movie. Apatow’s work tends to be on the long side—and I’ve never had a problem with that. Maybe this was supposed to be a movie at first, and Apatow realized it was going to be lengthy. If so, it was a good call to make this a series, because every one of the 10 episodes is a gem. 

Published in Reviews

The great Ken Marino (The State) stars in Bad Milo! as Duncan, a mild mannered accountant who finds out the stomach issues he’s been having aren’t related to stress.

Instead, an alien-like creature that is the manifestation of all his bad thoughts is living up his ass. When those bad thoughts become overwhelming, the alien creature shoots out and starts killing people.

Yes, I am telling you the truth: This movie is about some sort of dreaded ass monster that looks like a demented E.T. and sounds like Gizmo from Gremlins. The film is much better than anything with this subject matter deserves to be, thanks to a fully (and I do mean fully) committed performance from Marino, who manages to make a movie about an alien escaping from his anus both funny and, at times, oddly moving.

The film has its share of gore, with one sequence involving the murder of a fertility doctor being especially graphic. It also has some great, random-humor moments, and a couple of good supporting performances from Stephen Root (as Duncan’s pot-smoking dad) and Peter Stormare (as his wacky therapist). I love the parrot!

Other players include Patrick Warburton as Duncan’s selfish boss, and Gillian Jacobs from TV’s Community as Duncan’s wife. The movie is reminiscent of odd horror flicks like Basket Case and parts of The Human Centipede.

You’ll know within about 15 minutes if this one is for you or not. If The State or TV’s Childrens Hospital make you laugh, you might find yourself happy. If you don’t like toilet humor, you should stay far away from this one.

It’s available on demand and via iTunes.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing