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Review: Tammy (2014)

Tammy (2014)

Directed by: Ben Falcone 

Premise: A woman (Melissa McCarthy) loses her job and discovers that her husband is cheating on her. She sets out on a road trip with her alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon).

What Works: Melissa McCarthy can be an engaging actor when she holds back the wackiness and plays up her vulnerability. The parts of Tammy that work the best are those moments and McCarthy’s character has a few effective scenes with her grandmother, played by Susan Sarandon, a fast food employee played by Sarah Baker, and her love interest played by Mark Duplass. Kathy Bates shows up in the last third of the movie and although she isn’t given much to do it’s nice to see Bates on screen and she acts as the wise old sage, talking some sense into McCarthy’s character. It’s also notable that the cast of Tammy is primarily female. In the current movie marketplace there aren’t many films with this many female roles, especially featuring older actresses, and so it’s too bad that the movie isn’t better.

What Doesn’t: Tammy is a movie that’s so bad that it’s kind of a curiosity. Movies are designed to elicit a reaction; it’s the emotions that audiences experience during a motion picture that defines it. Most movies, even bad ones, will cause the audience to feel something, even if it’s revulsion or anger. Tammy is a strange viewing experience because it does not inspire any kind of feeling at all. This is a comedy that has virtually no laughs. It isn’t that the picture is underwhelming and gets guffaws and snorts instead of belly laughs. Tammy is so flat and so uninspired that for ninety-six minutes it is unlikely that the audience will feel anything at all. The movie has no proper jokes and no story. The sequences in this film are not events linked in a cause and effect relationship; they’re just random events flung together. The road trip ought to at least give this movie a narrative backbone but Tammy and her grandmother are not headed anywhere and most of their travels entail scenes of the two of them being horrible to each other before arbitrarily deciding to reconcile. The romantic subplot entirely rides on the charm of McCarthy and Duplass but that’s not enough. A love story is made meaningful by the things the lovers do for each other but the love story of Tammy consists entirely of McCarthy and Duplass engaging in dew-eyed staring contests. The overwhelming failure of Tammy must be owned by Melissa McCarthy. In addition to playing the title role, McCarthy is also credited as a writer and a producer. This film was clearly intended to be her show and she fails to deliver. Although McCarthy plays the softer bits pretty well, most of the movie is dedicated to the actor being as loud and obnoxious as she can be and, if anything, the performance most strongly recalls the work of Adam Sandler. McCarthy has that same oppressive obnoxiousness, the movie follows a similar story formula of an immature grownup learning to be a responsible adult, the filmmakers engage in unearned sentimentality, and the humor appeals to the lowest common denominator. McCarthy’s role in Tammy is essentially the same part she played in Identity Thief and it is remarkable how many specific moments of the 2013 film are repeated here. At the time of that film’s release, and now with the release of Tammy, there’s been a fair amount of press written about Melissa McCarthy’s physical appearance and how critics should avoid critiquing her weight. In general that’s true; a performer’s weight is usually irrelevant and picking on his or her weight isn’t constructive, just mean. However, the whole joke of Tammy is that Melissa McCarthy’s character is a trashy slob and all of the attempts at humor in this movie are based upon how trashy and slovenly she can be. If anyone is ridiculing Melissa McCarthy’s weight, it’s McCarthy herself.

Bottom Line: Tammy is an example of a movie failing on virtually every level. The performances, the story, and even the most pandering attempts at laughs and drama collide together in a cinematic train wreck.

Episode: #499 (July 13, 2014)