When it comes to Netflix’s catalog of films, quantity over quality has been the clear direction for the streaming giant over the last handful of years. As every major studio is scrambling to compete with their own streaming services such as Disney Plus and Peacock, Netflix has to keep producing new content to replace the films it loses to Disney and NBC.
While the announcement of new Netflix movies might cause audible groans for most viewers, quality entertainment — especially films that the entire family can enjoy — is not yet a dead art.
In a world where wholesome entertainment is harder to find than a video game for the Atari 2600, “Afterlife of the Party” is one of 2021’s most pleasant surprises. Director Stephen Herek has a solid background of memorable films under his belt such as “The Mighty Ducks” and “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” With the help of Victoria Justice, who is extremely charismatic in front of the camera, “Afterlife of the Party” is a wholesome yet contemporary story of the concept of grief.
Criminally underrated Justice is a ray of positivity and charisma in the role of Cassie. A stylish but self-absorbed individual, Cassie grows into a woman with a good heart and proper perspective on life. The idea is clichéd, but Justice brings a personality and comedic timing that makes the tired idea work.
Justice’s chemistry with Netflix star Francis gives the film an emotional bond that grips audiences with the ups and downs of their story. The pair starts off on a good night but the differences in their introverted and extroverted personalities clash, causing a huge breakup right before Cassie’s death. Cassie returns to help Lisa live life the way she hasn’t been able to since her death.
The film tackles the issue of loss and the effects of grief. Cassie spends her time trying to pull her father out of a deep depression while working on forgiving her estranged mother and stepsister. The message is about not leaving things to regret, and the film delivers it in a way that is fun and not depressing.
“Afterlife of the Party” isn’t exactly a must-see film, but for a platform like Netflix, which resets the bar for mediocrity, it is a blessing to have a modestly entertaining comedy with an overall grounded and positive message.