“This is one of the first road movies where I felt just as lost and hopelessly unfound as the characters in the film.”
Tammy, much like its titular character, wheezes and exhausts its ideas, its story, and its screenplay to reiterate an idea you’re probably already well aware of, which is its lead actress Melissa McCarthy is rowdy, overweight, and a fearless comedic force of energy and life. We got that message in Bridesmaids, The Heat, Identity Thief, and in weekly doses on her sitcom Mike & Molly. Why we must endure ninety-seven minutes that do nothing but redundantly give us the same idea and message I don’t know.
The film revolves around Tammy after she is fired for her tardiness and belligerence at Topperjack’s, her fast-food place of employment and comes home to find her husband (director Ben Falcone, who is McCarthy’s real-life husband) cheating on her with the neighbor lady. Angry, dishevelled, and looking about as bad as a person could look, Tammy packs up and hits the road with her elderly grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon), a heavily-medicated diabetic, who is also an alcoholic.
They impulsively decide to go to Niagara Falls from their little podunk town in Illinois, but get sidetracked by such contrivances, I mean, destinations, as a ramshackle tavern and a lesbian party, as if writers Falcone McCarthy are hellbent and desperate for a laugh, no matter how bad or desperate it could be. Tammy and Pearl wind up meeting two gentlemen, Earl (Gary Cole), who is smitten with Pearl, and Bobby (Mark Duplass), who is quietly shocked by Tammy’s brazen and often careless behavior. The events unravel in a frustratingly redundant manner.
Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy character makes for a film that’s, what I call, an “anti-character study,” or a film that spends its time focusing on a character not worth studying or humanizing whatsoever. Tammy is such a reprehensible character, ugly, mean-spirited, and morally vacuous, that it’s hard to even like or sympathize with her when she won’t like or sympathizer with herself. The film continues to force her presence and her bigoted attitude at us like a parent forcing a kid to eat his vegetables that, after a while, the very site of such an obligation becomes quite sickening.
It’s not that McCarthy is a bad screen presence; few actresses have the boldness and the unapologetic brazen qualities to command almost every scene of their films. It’s that she’s given too much free range with this project, and the free range she takes only works to be a repetitive and overcompensating reminder that she is indeed heavyset and can hurl herself around in a series of episodic setups, throwing caution to the wind.
This time, however, McCarthy goes too far in her quest for bad laughs. This time, however, she victimizes such a brilliant cast in the process, including the fantastic indie filmmaker Mark Duplass, the irreplaceable but woefully miscast Susan Sarandon, who, alongside McCarthy, bears no chemistry whatsoever to anybody on screen, an unfortunately pretty good Kathy Bates performance, who, unlike McCarthy and Sarandon, works well with her acting partner Sandra Oh here. These actors have all been great in other pictures, but together, with this lackluster script and story, it makes for nothing but a redundant and frustratingly inert idea.
Even by road movie standards, Tammy is a bad movie, never giving us an idea where the characters are at, why they’re heading to Niagara Falls, what direction they’re going in, and so forth. This is one of the first road movies where I felt just as lost and hopelessly unfound as the characters in the film. Despite making for an intriguing, empathetic idea, I don’t think that’s how it was supposed to be.
The big question now is what is left and in store for McCarthy? If I could assume, likely more of the same redundant humor, which occasionally merits a laugh but has proved dry and stale after some wear and age. There are some actors I love seeing stick to the same kind of formula because they bring a certain charm or energy to the role. McCarthy isn’t necessarily bad at what she does, but she has effectively experienced overkill with her Tammy character, carrying her caricature traits to the length of extreme tedium. I would love to see her take on a dramatic performance or something other than this kind of bottom-barrel humor.
I can foresee – as evident in my showing for Tammy – numerous middle-aged and older people flood multiplexes over the next couple weeks to see the lovable Melissa McCarthy with the similar, ribald schtick that they everso loved on CBS’s hit sitcom Mike & Molly. Might I suggest another film to which they may find more good-natured, heartfelt, and wholesome? How about Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys, which is working on being the most criminally unseen mainstream film of the year. That film will certainly fill you with warmness and energy, with its Oscar-worthy aesthetics and beautifully nostalgic music, which is better than the contempt and moroseness Tammy will likely fill you with.