Tammy (2014) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for language including sexual references
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allson Janney, Kathy Bates, Mark Duplass, Gary Cole, Ben Falcone, Nat Faxon, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Dan Aykroyd
Director: Ben Falcone
Screenplay: Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone
Review published July 2, 2014
Melissa McCarthy (The Heat, Identity Thief) stars and co-writes Tammy with her hubby, Ben Falcone (Enough Said, Bad Words), who also directs (his first effort) and connects with a fun supporting role, in this film co-produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay for Gary Sanchez productions. The premise shadows Thelma and Louise a bit in that we have a woman who is mistreated by her cheating husband, and in a road trip movie with a character played by Susan Sarandon (Snitch, Cloud Atlas) in a co-starring role.
McCarthy is in the titular role, playing a woman-child who gets canned from her job at an Illinois fast-food joint only to come home and find her husband (Faxon, The Way Way Back) is cheating on her with one of their neighbors (Collette, Hitchcock). She decides she's going to get away, perhaps to Niagara Falls, and she ends up having to take her alcoholic, diabetic grandmother along for the ride. The two end up in all manner of hijinks along the way.
Though it is a McCarthy vehicle, it is Sarandon who gets her chance to shine in most of her scenes. Never mind that Sarandon is playing McCarthy's grandmother at only 24 years older (making matters worse, Allison Janney (Mr. Peabody & Sherman) plays McCarthy's mother only 11 years older), she is completely game for whatever absurd, in-your-face comedy is required to dish out. Falcone wanted his cast to improvise as they saw fit, but McCarthy is the only comedian on the screen, so there's not much comic gold to be mined from a production that feels more funny than it delivers.
Although you'd expect Tammy to continuously play for big laughs, there are some scenes that curiously skirt the line of tragedy. One is early on, in the scene in which Tammy discovers that her husband has just made dinner for the woman he will be leaving her for while he thought she would be at work. It's a bizarre and wildly uneven scene that seems to play neither for comedy nor sorrow, awkwardly leaving us wondering, when Tammy points out that soon-to-be-ex husband never made her a meal, not even one time, that there is far too much heartbreak in knowing this fact to laugh at anything else that happens, and yet she doesn't seem nearly as distraught as the scene properly calls for. She just goes batty yet again, in a film full of her coming unhinged, and we're not sure whether to laugh at her or cry for her as she traverses her comic odyssey to find happiness. At least I think that's what she's trying to find; the film never explains what the significance of the end goal of her road trip truly is.
Tammy is a pretty simple film to review: if you find McCarthy uproariously hilarious and want to see as much of her as possible, even if there's not much of a story for her tantrums to wrap around, you will probably like it, and if you think she's best used as a spice in a film rather than the main ingredient, you probably won't. She basically plays another variation on the bumbling ignoramus who sometimes goes out of control, not unlike the kind of role once played by Chris Farley in his sophomoric films. My take: though it does deliver a handful of laughs here and there, this film feels too slapdash in its ideas to form the basis of a genuinely winning comedy. It's just a collection of sporadically absurd, situational comedy scenes that accumulate until it ends.
©2014 Vince Leo