Afterlife of the Party (2021) poster

Afterlife of the Party (2021)


USA. 2021.


Director – Stephen Herek, Screenplay – Carrie Freedle, Producers – Deborah Evans, Vlokkie Gordon & Robin Snyder, Photography – Michael Swan, Music – Jessica Rose Weiss, Visual Effects – Crafty Apes (Supervisor – Carlo Monaghan), Special Effects Supervisor – Nathan Wheatly, Production Design – Franz Lewis. Production Company – Front Row Films/DAE Light Media.


Victoria Justice (Cassie Garcia), Midori Francis (Lisa), Robyn Scott (Val), Adam Garcia (Howie), Thomas Renouf (Max Garcia), Gloria Garcia (Sofia), Myfanwy Waring (Emmie), Spencer Sutherland (Koop)


Cassie Garcia is in the midst of celebrating her 24th birthday week. While out on the town, she and her roommate/best friend Lisa argue and part ways after Lisa criticises Cassie for regarding chasing superficial fun as more important than her friends. Cassie returns home but drunkenly slips and smacks her head on the side of the toilet. She comes around to find herself in the afterlife where she meets the heavenly supervisor Val. Val tells Cassie that her fate is undecided and gives her three days to return to Earth on the one year anniversary of her death. She is to connect with three people – Lisa, her father Max and her estranged mother Sofia who left when Cassie was young. However, she is unable to be seen or communicate with any other person. Despite this, Cassie discovers that Lisa is able to see her. In setting out to fulfil her mission, Cassie also helps Lisa get together with Howie, the cute musician next door.

Stephen Herek is a director who gained a name for a time after appearing with Critters (1986) and then the hit of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). Herek followed that with various other mainstream films including the likes of Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991), The Mighty Ducks (1992), The Three Musketeers (1993), Mr Holland’s Opus (1995), Holy Man (1998) and Rock Star (2001), which are generally competent if mostly on the side of lightweight comedies. Herek has made assorted others ventures into genre material with the live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians (1996), the romcom Life or Something Like It (2002) wherein Angelina Jolie receives a prophecy of her death, and Dead Like Me: Life After Death (2009) based on the tv series about grim reapers. Herek spent most of the 2010s working in tv and Afterlife of the Party was his first film in several years.

Afterlife of the Party is the sort of Light Fantasy film that used to be popular – one in which someone is sent back to Earth from the afterlife to fulfil Unfinished Business/right some wrongs/act as a guardian angel etc. See examples such as Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941), A Guy Named Joe (1943), Angel on My Shoulder (1946) and more modern variants such as The Heavenly Kid (1985), Ghost Dad (1990) and Heart Condition (1990).

Cassie Garcia (Victoria Justice) and Val (Robyn Scott) in Afterlife of the Party (2021)
(l to r) Recently deceased party girl Cassie Garcia (Victoria Justice) and heavenly supervisor Val (Robyn Scott)

This is an incredibly insipid film. The only real appeal it can possibly have is to teenage girls who are obsessed with mall culture and boy bands. You get switched off from about the point of the opening scenes with Victoria Justice undergoing a dress-up montage while a bland pop song plays on the soundtrack. Robyn Scott’s angelic supervisor even uses terms like ‘trending.’ Upon arriving in the afterlife, Victoria comes out with lines like “Hell? I thought that was for murderers and people who don’t like Beyoncé” – it is the sort of line where you get the impression that the screenwriter spent several days chuckling at their own cleverness after coming up with it.

Victoria Justice is an unlikeable lead who seems self-absorbed and remains that way despite the ostensible redemption arc that her character is meant to undergo. My feeling is that the film would have worked far better if the lead had been given to Midori Francis who plays the best friend and gives a far more likeably appealing and down to earth performance of awkward cuteness.

It all comes to a banal wind-up where loves are united, Victoria Justice receives closure with her estranged family and gets to go on to Heaven with the hot boy band lead singer of her dreams. It feels like the career of Stephen Herek has slid a long way down from the point when he made iconic comedy classics like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Trailer here

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