How exactly does one waste the charm and natural charisma of Victoria Justice? Look no further than Netflix’s new comedy, Afterlife of the Party! It takes a fresh and fun premise dealing with death and what comes after, then fails to do anything with it that we haven’t seen before. The entire movie has a very been-there-done-that feel, so much so that you would be forgiven for thinking it came from a bygone era.
It is birthday week for Cassie (Justice), and will she be content to put on stretchy pants, solve puzzles, and order noodles? No, she wants to go out to celebrate! After getting belligerently intoxicated from one too many shots, Cassie experiences the biggest party foul of all: her actual death, courtesy of a toilet. Lucky for Cassie, she gets a second chance to right at least a few wrongs. Enter Val (Robyn Scott), Cassie’s “temporary guardian Angel.” Val presents Cassie with the opportunity to ascend to “the above,” with one simple caveat. She must course-correct the damage done to a select list of people, and Cassie is slotted exactly five days in which to do it. What could go wrong?
Afterlife of the Party is not dissimilar narratively from a plethora of other like-minded films, including Beetlejuice and Ghost Town. However, this movie lacks personality and specificity, or even big laughs to help make up for the story shortcomings. I felt myself losing interest the more it went on, as it started becoming crystal clear that this concept is played as straightforward as possible. This is by far the most frustrating aspect—it would be easy to spin the premise in a number of ways, including expanding the world of the afterlife itself. The biggest attempt comes in the form of Cassie’s former BFF Lisa (Midori Francis), who works at the Museum of Natural History. She can see Cassie in ghost form while everyone else around her remains ignorant to Cassie’s presence. Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost did it better.
I do not think Afterlife of the Party is explicitly a bad film, it is just an alright one. When potential exists for laughs and creativity, taking the lazy way out becomes significantly more frustrating. A side plot about Cassie’s dad grieving her loss and the idea of getting one wardrobe change per day are proof that just below the surface lies an actual good film. If only Afterlife of the Party wasn’t buried so deep under the earth in its predictability, perhaps it would not have been pronounced dead on arrival.
Afterlife of the Party gets a second chance from beyond the grave when it debuts on Netflix on Thursday, September 2nd.