Victoria Justice stars as Cassie, the charming social butterfly and party addict in the Netflix original “Afterlife of the Party.” While she brings mediocre comedy and extravagant fashion to a “real world” filled with failing relationships, she also brings together the family and friends she left behind in an “afterlife” of righting wrongs and completing unfinished business.
Cassie lives to party. Within the first 10 minutes of the two-hour film, she plans and attends a “Cassie-palooza” for her 25th birthday. She “lives it up” at the wild event, but she dies the following morning in a freak bathroom accident. Now, she’s stuck between the above and the below, and according to her guardian angel, she must fix things on Earth if she wants to earn wings.
Since its release in early September, the film has earned a No. 1 spot on Netflix’s Top 10 list. However, its popularity surpasses the performance of an unappealing and average storyline.
A classic case of a broken friendship and divorced parents fill Cassie’s agenda for the afterlife, but she handles each situation all too predictably. She deals with business emotionally and garners a few good laughs, but the comedy itself is oftentimes clichéd and subpar. When the movie’s all wrapped up with a cherry on top by a non-surprising ending, unanswered questions about certain circumstances and characters leave the audience unsatisfied.
However, the film is not a lost cause. Its touching scenes between Cassie and her loved ones create a sentimental watch for viewers. Those who wish to watch the film should approach it as a typical Disney Channel movie or a Hallmark guilty pleasure. But for those who expect an original hit, here’s what to keep in mind before streaming “Afterlife of the Party.”
The Overused Dilemmas and Predictable Solutions
Before Cassie dies, she has a falling out with her best friend since first grade, Lisa. While the social butterfly lives to party, Lisa lives to “study bones,” as clueless Cassie calls it. Lisa claims that there’s more to life than partying, and Cassie argues that at least she’s out making friends and not hiding behind a desk. The conversation raises more issues in their relationship until Cassie utters one last living line to Lisa: “Maybe it’s time we both admit that we’ve outgrown each other.”
The archetypes of the outgoing partygoer and the awkward party-pooper are on opposite ends of the social spectrum. Yet, when merged, a lasting friendship can form. This familiar relationship plagues storylines, the oftentimes attractive extrovert pulling the introvert out of their comfort zone — and when the introvert gets shoved aside at a party or feels left out, the world comes to an end. “Afterlife of the Party” is no different.
In the “afterlife,” Cassie makes amends with Lisa and tries to set her up with her neighbor Max, who, sure enough, has just moved in next door. Lisa, the introvert that she is, doesn’t want to “mess things up” with him. But with Cassie’s push, she comes to find out that he’s so perfect for her that he’s almost her replica. The fact that there are no real obstacles to their basic relationship proves its superficiality.
Aside from righting her friendship with Lisa, Cassie tries to reach out to the mom that left her when she was little. She never made amends with her mom in the real world, so the film doesn’t need to depict their relationship in-depth to prove that Cassie will ultimately forgive her in the afterlife. In fact, Cassie’s death brings her mother and father closer together — shocker.
Additionally, Cassie’s relationship with her father needs saving. After her death, her dad is left devastated and dismally alone. She never made time for him when he was alive; they share the typical relationship where the daughter wants nothing to do with the dad that cared for and raised her. But of course, even this roller coaster comes to an end.
The audience can predict a happy ending from the film’s outset, so there’s really no “wow” factor to “Afterlife of the Party.” Although viewers might not expect twists and turns in a cliché, they do expect some comedy, especially when considering the genre of the movie. However, in that regard, viewers shouldn’t expect much either.
Justice brought her enthusiasm, glamour and Nickelodeon humor to “Afterlife of the Party,” but where storylines run basic, jokes run mediocre.
“Hey, I wanna introduce you to my friend Fun. I don’t know if you two have ever met.” Cassie drops this line on Lisa when she goes on and on about her paleontology research. Not only is this a classic, kids-comedy comment, it’s probably something no adult 25-year-old would say.
The cringe doesn’t stop there. “For someone who studies bones, you need to get some in your back.” When Lisa admits that she doesn’t want to ask out her crush, Cassie says this clever line that she’s been wanting to say since “Lisa declared her major.” The character reveals the effectiveness of the statement itself: It took so much preparation to deliver the point that it’s not even humorous. For all the talk about bones in the film, it’s surprising that they couldn’t even hit the funny one.
Some of the real-world events are extremely unrealistic and so beyond believable that they’re not amusing, they’re just downright ridiculous. For example, Cassie’s death is embarrassing for her, since she died in a restroom. But the four-count tragedy — from her hand slipping off the sink, to her grabbing a hold of a towel pole that rips off the wall, to tripping over a purse, to hitting her head on the toilet — is completely over-the-top.
Although a few good lines make their way into the afterlife, especially through guardian angel Val, the overall comedy is subpar and childlike.
Cassie’s Not the Only One With Unfinished Business
Cliches can be an easy way to wrap up, especially because they satisfy the general, expected needs of the audience. Without giving away the predictable ending, “Afterlife of the Party” leaves some questions unanswered.
How does Cassie really interact with the human world? Cassie can move objects in the real world. Lisa can see her, so from her perspective, it looks normal. Yet, there was no single instance in the film in which someone else saw objects moving around on their own. How would Cassie’s actions appear to those who can’t see her? Would she be like a ghost? The movie fails to answer this question.
Additionally, how do people perceive Lisa? She wears headphones when she’s talking to afterlife Cassie so people don’t think she’s talking to herself. But at times, she steps aside and talks to Cassie, which would appear as blank space to any ordinary human being. How do people not recognize that there’s something off about Lisa?
Aside from these unanswered questions, the film wraps everything up in an ordinary, happily-ever-after way. If the movie’s ending succeeds on any level, it’s because it does not bring Cassie back to life. That would undo all of her now-finished business and make the “afterlife” a destiny not worth pursuing. It would also make an unsatisfying and pointless watch for viewers.
TV-PG “Afterlife of the Party” is not worth a stream, unless viewers crave unoriginal storylines, overly quirky characters and childish comedy. However, it does explore the relationship between family and friends and how a repentant partygoer has a chance to reconnect with those she left behind — probably good if you want to kill some time.