“Think of it as Cassie-palooza, the afterlife edition!”
Genre: Human Makes Right After Death Comedies
Release Date: 2021
Where I Watched: Netflix
Synopsis: Cassie is THE party animal. Not only is she a party planner, she’s up for anything and everything. Except maybe staying in with her BFF/roommie for a low-key 25th birthday hang. But you only turns 25 once, amirite? And after Cassie slips and conks her head on the toiler but hard? It’s Cassie’s last birthday. And it seems she’s in spiritual limbo, with three folks back on earth she needs to “fix” before her next birthday in five days (hey, time works differently upstairs.) Her Dad, her estranged mom, and that BFF she blew up at right before that whole toilet thing. Easy-peasy, right? Sure.
Talky talk: “It’s an impromptu dance party with my best friend since first grade!” – the very first line of dialogue (not counting the radio DJ intro) in Party lets you know two things. One, that it’s gonna be a light-hearted comedic romp. Two, that it might be heavy on the exposition, but in a way that’s both a bit steam-roll-y and unavoidably fun. Seriously; this is a film you should put on when you’re feeling out of sorts and want a serotonin boost. (If you want to wallow, this movie might make you scream…but may I recommend Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Short Term 12? You’re welcome.) Though I have to admit that the balance tends towards the comedic at the beginning – Cassie does start off trying to fix up Lisa with The Boy Next Door Lisa’s had a crush on for over a year – the story finds its footing easily as Cassie starts to really dig into her past life, and how she really does need to fix a thing or two. Or three. The cast does a pretty darn good job switching emotional notes, and I was pretty impressed with that.
With whiffs of films like Heaven Can Wait (either version), Always, and Defending Your Life, Party is a welcome surprise; a straight-to-Netflix comedy that knows when to be sweet, or goofy, or heartstring-pulling. Sometimes it does all three at once, and does it effectively. Sure, it seems a lightweight piece of comedic fluff, and for about 80% of the run time it is. However, that extra twenty percent? Ah, that’ll get ‘cha. The relationships Cassie has with her Mom and Dad are either completely nonexistent, or just about there. And director Stephen Herek knows how to balance treacle; he completely nailed it with Mr. Holland’s Opus. (Damn I love that film.) Herek also directed Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, so yeah; you get the gist? The man’s got a way with comedy that’s got the feels.
The cast is well suited to the material, with Victoria Justice and Midori Francis as believable BFFs Cassie and Lisa. And though it’s really not my style (translation: I couldn’t pull off these looks to save my life), I’d love to ransack Cassie’s afterlife closet. Especially for that fringe jacket. Thank you, costuming department, for being both trendy and timeless with the characters wardrobe. Okay, the CGI is your basic sparkly fade in/out stuff, but what do you expect for a direct-to-streaming joint? Plus, that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here for the funny, sappy moments, like when Cassie and Lisa patch up their relationship. And whenever Cassie interacts with her afterlife “guardian angel” Val (a slyly spunky Robyn Scott), because the blend of Justice’s hyperkinetic energy and Scott’s deadpan is *chef’s kiss*.
Is this movie gonna win any awards this season? Yeah, probably not. This Party is enjoyable, but it’s never more than a fluffy comedic piece that has a surprising amount of depth, but ain’t nothing you can’t figure out as the story unspools. But as I’ve always said, if you’ve come to genre movies – and afterlife comedies can firmly fit in that descriptive – looking for ARRRRT? You need to sit all the way down. Grab your popcorn and just allow yourself to have a bit of fun. Life’s too short.
Come for: The sweet, goofy 21st century riff on the afterlife genre.
Stay for: Tearing up like a little bitch at the climax. No, it’s not just me. It’ll be you too, and that’s more than okay. Here, have a tissue.
Score: 3 out of 5 stars