Movie Review ~ Afterlife of the Party

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A social butterfly who dies during her birthday week is given a second chance to right her wrongs on Earth.

Stars: Victoria Justice, Midori Francis, Robyn Scott, Adam Garcia, Timothy Renouf, Gloria García, Spencer Sutherland

Director: Stephen Herek

Rated: NR

Running Length: 109 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review:  OK – we’ve always dealt with honest truths here and I see no reason to stop now.  You know my love of movies set in space.  You are well aware that I’ll never shy away from a shark movie.  You certainly should be ready to supply me with an underwater adventure I’ve never seen before because I think by this point, I’ve seen them all.  However.  Do you know what other genre of movie that I just can’t ever say no to no matter how hard I try? If your answer was: silly comedies where dead people come back to mess with the living, then you would be correct. (And please, get out of my brain.)  I tell ya, there is absolutely nothing more comfort food-y than a good, old-fashioned ghost that no one else can see save for one person that gets driven totally batty until they adjust to this new spirit and eventually learn to live with the specter who needs their living friend to help them finish something so they can move on.  (See High Spirits, All of Me, Hello Again, Heart Condition, The Frighteners, the list goes on…)

That’s why I sought out Afterlife of the Party on Netflix to review and no, it’s not because I’m a huge Victoria Justice fan (full disclosure, I had to look her up to see what she was famous for).  This airy little bauble is a Sunday morning wake yourself up movie.  The kind you flip on as the coffee percolates and your eyes adjust while yawning to life on the couch.  There’s nothing at all wrong with the film per se, but there’s not a whole lot of substance to it either.  It’s calorie-free but you’ll be hungry for something more almost immediately when the credits roll.

Party girl Cassie (Justice, Fun Size) thinks that life should be lived to the fullest and that you can worry about your troubles tomorrow – a philosophy her roommate Lisa (Midori Francis, Oceans Eight) doesn’t completely agree with.  More of a realist than her more gregarious bestie, Lisa is focused on her career in science but doesn’t have the nerve to ask for what she deserves at her job.  Lisa’s hopelessly stunted encounters with a handsome next-door neighbor (Timothy Renouf) are also awkwardly awful, something Cassie notes as a thing they’ll need to work on…but after they go out for a night of celebration with friends.  When the overserved Cassie wakes up hungover the next day she stumbles to the bathroom, accidentally trips, and dies after hitting her head.

Ah…but that’s not the end my friend.  She’s brought to a fancy powder room where she meets Val (Robyn Scott) her guide between the Above and Below who tells her she has unfinished business to achieve that she has to wrap up before the week is out. It’s been a whole year since she died though, so Cassie will have to find a way to reach out to her loved ones (including both of her estranged divorced parents that she doesn’t speak to and Lisa, whom she fought with the night before she died) and get her affairs in order before the final decision is made where she’ll end up. If she can get things square (and make a few wrongs right) it might mean extra credit for the decision-makers that are currently holding her eternal fate in their heavenly hands.

Directed by Stephen Herek, who has amassed an assortment of notable ‘80s and ‘90s titles on his credit list from Critters to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, The Mighty Ducks, and Mr. Holland’s Opus, the script from Hallmark alum Carrie Freedle is a solid 20 minutes too long.  Far too much time is spent rehashing the same closure conversations, just with different people but not in any different ways.  Cassie’s attempt to connect with her sad-sack dad (Adam Garcia, Murder on the Orient Express) through health and wellness is an interesting way into the connection between mind, body, and spirit but the eventual meeting with her mom (Gloria Garcia, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, no relation to Adam) takes forever to get through. 

Where the film is at its snappiest is when Justice and Francis are working together.  Demonstrating that same crackle she did in last year’s Dash & Lily series for Netflix, Francis helps Justice loosen up and find more of the comedy in Freedle’s script.  It’s actually Francis that winds up with the more emotional journey and that’s only because we wind up wanting to spend more time with her character as it blossoms into someone in a far different place than where they began.  I can always use more ghost shenanigans and while Scott’s sorta-angel character is fun to have around, she isn’t as playful as I wanted her (or the movie) to get.

I don’t think audiences are coming to this one to be moved one way or the other, just for a pleasant diversion and Afterlife of the Party meets that challenge fully.  Production values are slightly lower than your usual Netflix film and fall in pace with a quickie seasonal movie you might find on Lifetime or Hallmark (hence why Freedle feels at home with introducing a number of late breaking non-challenging roadblocks for Cassie to face) but overall, this is one that floats into your life easily and drifts away after the credits roll just as smoothly.