Tammy (2014) Review

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Melissa McCarthy is an actress that is known for her comedy roles in films like Bridesmaids and The Heat, both of which were top notch comedy flicks with plenty of laughs. She has also put forth some decent dramatic performances, specifically in recent Bill Murray fronted vehicle, St. Vincent, but in-between the good thing she’s done are a few poor choices, films that drop below mediocre and are, at times, just awful. Tammy, directed and co-written (with McCarthy herself) by McCarthy’s hubby, Ben Falcone, this is what one might call a “self-gratification picture”.

McCarthy plays the titular Tammy, a stuck-in-a-rut woman who finds her husband, Greg (Nat Faxon) is cheating on her with a neighbour, Missi (Toni Collette), loses her job and decides to skip town to clear her head of everything. When her car is destroyed she has no other choice but to borrow Pearl’s (Susan Sarandon), her Grandmother’s, Cadillac, with the condition being that she take her with her. Reluctantly taking Pearl with her for the ride, Tammy tries to figure out her life whilst dealing with the antics caused by Pearl’s alcoholism. Meeting a guy named Bobby (Mark Duplass) on her travels that she connects with, Tammy worries for her own future as well as the health of Pearl whose negligent behaviour is getting dangerous. We meet other characters along the way too, including gay friends of Pearl, Lenore (Kathy Bates) and Susanne (Sandra Oh), Bobby’s father, Earl (Gary Cole), and Tammy’s parents, Deb (Alison Janney) and Don (Dan Aykroyd) among others.

At its core this is a road-movie, a bonding comedy road trip in which two family members confront their differences as well as their own personal problems in order to find their way back on track in life. McCarthy, as Tammy, is okay. She plays the clown too often, but when the scene calls for it she does bring some heart to a silly character that is one of the weakest she has played so far. Sarandon, as Pearl, is the weakest link here in my view. Phoning in a performance that is borderline impossible to sympathise with, Sarandon seemed to be taking part in an “act-by-numbers” activity, causing the relationship between Pearl and Tammy, a relationship in which we, as viewers, are supposed to warm to, to fall short. The cast features some great acting talent though, and most of them are misused and under-utilised due to the poor script and lack of structure with the plot itself. There are scenes here which made no sense to the story and seemed to be just thrown in to get a laugh, which they didn’t. Mark Duplass, an actor I enjoy in his indie-flick roles in movies like The Puffy Chair and Your Sister’s Sister, works with what he has at his disposal, which isn’t very much. Kathy Bates, an actress I have a lot of admiration for, seems to be doing someone a favour by her appearance here as a one-dimensional and dated image of an ageing lesbian. She is so, so much better than this, as we all know. The remainder of the cast fall into the same kind of boats. Faxon, Collette, Aykroyd, Janney and others have all done wonderful things in films and were just used to play punchlines to the joke that is “Tammy” here, a real shame considering the substantial talent pool that this movie had at its feet.

The film isn’t a complete cock-up though, there are some good points about it. McCarthy is likeable, as I’ve mentioned above, and her soul searching scenes were the best in the film’s almost 100 minute running time. It has its moments of being entertaining and “shut-off-your-brain” enjoyable, bringing to mind the likes of the first (not the second, which is the worst film I have ever seen) Grown Up’s film and Identity Thief. It’s mediocre, sure, and there are flaws a-plenty to be found, but it isn’t completely worthless. If you’re a fan of Melissa McCarthy and enjoy her brash and slapstick comedy performances then you might find plenty here to enjoy. The writing is poor though, and there are way too many occasions where I questioned whether I was wasting my time, but there were points when it did things right and gave a chuckle or two. The weakest McCarthy fronted film yet, Tammy will hopefully be the last time that such a strong cast is assembled and used in such a disappointing and lacklustre way.

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