Melissa McCarthy is very skilled at larger-than-life comedic characters. Many of them are similar to one another, so the movies can run into one another without some clear differentiation. I’m not entirely sure this one had that differentiation, but it was entertaining enough.
The story begins with Deanna dropping her daughter Maddie off at college for her senior year. It’s the school Deanna attended, but never quite finished because she dropped out partway through her senior year to have Maddie – at the insistence of her husband, Dan. She has always regretted not finishing, and when Dan tells her as they are pulling away from the school that he wants a divorce, the opportunity presents itself for her to go back and finish what she began.
Once back at school, Deanna begins to enjoy all parts of the college life. Once Maddie gets over some initial embarrassment (very quickly), she and her sorority sisters take Deanna to parties, give her a makeover, and insist that she have a good time while finishing up the courses. Although honestly, we only ever see her in one course – she must have been really close to graduating the first time around.
Dan eventually announces he’s marrying his new lady friend, Marcie, a real estate agent. She also happens to be the mother of Jack, a guy Deanna is hooking up with on campus – which results in some hilarity. Eventually Deanna learns to value herself again, finishes school, and I assume lives happily ever after.
This movie (like Tammy and The Boss) is directed by McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone. Like his others, this one is uneven tone-wise. It wants to be both a slapstick comedy and a gentle family comedy with some dramatic moments. It would have been stronger had it picked one of those and committed to it. Falcone is good at letting McCarthy’s characters run the scene, but I wanted even more comedy from this.
- Melissa McCarthy is charming and funny as Deanna. She is a bit overbearing as a mother, but does make it clear she knows when her daughter is embarrassed and does try to pay attention to those boundaries – just not very well. She’s good in this, but honestly deserves a little better material. Can we just get a sequel to Spy?
- Molly Gordon plays Maddie, and she was very good at being very subtle to let McCarthy dominate their scenes. I found it interesting that she was embarrassed of her mother in one scene, but then she and her friends very quickly grow to adore her and want her around all the time.
- Matt Walsh plays Dan, and the opportunity was there to make him really detestable, but it was downplayed slightly. When he tells her he wants a divorce, he does it simply and straightforward without any cruelty. The cruelty comes later in a passive aggressive way in his wedding decorations. Julie Bowen plays Marcie, the evil real estate agent.
- Maya Rudolph plays Christine, Deanna’s best friend and Damon Jones plays her easy-going husband Frank.
- Gillian Jacobs plays Helen, a sorority sister of Maddie’s who was in a coma for eight years. This is an odd character trait that is used once or twice, but seems a bit forced in for little to no reason.
- Jacki Weaver and Stephen Root play Deanna’s parents, Sandy and Mike.
- Jimmy O. Yang plays Tyler, Maddie’s boyfriend and Luke Benward plays his friend Jack, the dude who is really into Deanna, as well as being Marcie’s son.
- Chris Parnell plays Mr. Truzack, who once was a classmate of Deanna’s and is now the archaeology professor. That relationship was strange, and felt like the beginnings of something, but then was not followed through.
- Heidi Gardner plays Leonor, Deanna’s Goth roommate, who is strange, dark, and reclusive, but also relatively nice. And cousins with Christina Aguilera.
Overall, the potential was there for a much funnier movie, but this is still entertaining. It’s not terrible, but I did often find myself wanting more. Also – how in a movie with this many talented improvisers are there no outtakes over the end credits?!? Rule number one with a comedy – put some outtakes over the end credits!
5 out of 10 – it’s just fine. Worth watching if it comes on TV. And yes, it's very similar to Back To School: