The past few years, Melissa McCarthy has fallen into a rut of playing brash, silly characters with oversized glasses and bad hair. Her movies are always serviceable, because she’s great, but they're never groundbreaking. So that's pretty much all I expected from Life of the Party. But Life of the Party is more than serviceable—it’s wonderful!

McCarthy plays Deanna, the fortysomething mom of a college senior, and when her husband unceremoniously dumps her for a blonde real-estate agent, she decides to go back to college at the same school as her daughter.

The whole plot seems obvious: Deanna the Mom will become D-Rock, the hard-partying coed who will mortify her daughter by getting sloppy drunk at frat parties and crushing beer cans against her forehead and ruining her daughter's senior year by being selfish for the first time in her life. But then Deanna will learn to respect her daughter’s own journey and her daughter would learn that her mom is a person too.

Right?! I mean, it’s so obvious! And I was sure I was right for a good 15 minutes. Then there was a funny line. And then another. And then another fantastic supporting cast member rolled in with some subtly hilarious shtick. And before I knew it, I was doubled over laughing about... pretty much everything? What the hell?

Written by McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone, the seemingly bland Life of the Party is one of the funniest, cleverest movies I’ve seen in ages. It does what Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty tries (and fails) to do: It manages not only to be a movie about a character who isn't a 25-year-old model, but it also turns that character into a wholly formed person who isn't the butt of all the movie's jokes.

The script never punches down, and when a hot frat dude wants to bone Deanna, no one even bats an eye. Because of course this babely young man wants to hook up with the pretty lady. How nice! Life of the Party is terribly named, because jerks like me are gonna make incorrect assumptions about what the movie’s deal is, but we shouldn’t, because it’s just a joy. recommended