Release Date: July 2, 2014
Running Time: 96 minutes
Tammy is the slob comedy Alexander Payne is too dignified to write and direct. The influence of the director of About Schmidt, Sideways, and Nebraska can be strongly felt in Melissa McCarthy’s loutish Tammy, which the actress wrote with her director-husband Ben Falcone. This unmemorable road trip comedy, which pairs the slacking McCarthy with a surprisingly game Susan Sarandon, boasts many of the issues that Payne’s beaten-down protagonists grappled with in his elegant head-clearing character studies, most notably the family ties that bind and the fight to starve off old age. McCarthy and Falcone even cast some of Payne’s onscreen and off-screen collaborators, including About Schmidt’s Kathy Bates, The Descendants’ Oscar-winning co-screenwriter Nat Faxon, and Sideway’s Sandra Oh, who is also Payne’s ex-wife. But it’s to no avail. Working from a script that is sitcom lazy, McCarthy and Falcone fail miserably to offer any laughs or poignant insights into the midlife crisis endured by McCarthy’s Tammy, who is fired from her menial job on the same day she catches her husband with another woman. She hits the road with her grandmother Pearl, a brassy alcoholic who is played by Sarandon. Her presence brings to mind Thelma & Louise, but Tammy lacks the foresight and ambition to employ Tammy and Pearl’s misadventures on the road as a means to dissect the state of the mind of the modern woman. Instead Tammy’s an excuse for McCarthy to cause a bit of mayhem. All Tammy has going for it is Sarandon’s quiet feistiness. Unfortunately, McCarthy and Falcone don’t know what they want from Pearl. They make Pearl a sexual being, but they treat her bedroom antics as something unpleasant and age inappropriate. Pearl’s addiction is less about her than its past and present impact on Tammy, and it’s regrettably used to steer the film into unnecessary “fat loser” territory. The rest of Tammy’s cast, including Mark Duplass, Gary Cole, and Dan Aykroyd, show up just to show their faces. A billed Toni Collette appears as “the other woman,” but all she’s required to do is look nervously in Tammy’s direction. Maybe Collette owed someone a favor; if not, why she’s in Tammy is anybody’s guess. As Pearl’s cousin, Kathy Bates does have one amusing moment involving Pearl’s car, but otherwise she’s there just to give Tammy a good talking to. That Bates and Sandra Oh play a gay couple seems incidental to everything else that’s going on in Tammy, which is about the only thing that McCarthy and Falcone get right. It’s a shame Tammy is this bad. Had McCarthy and Falcone bothered to put some effort into their script, Tammy could have been McCarthy’s crowning comic moment. With Bridesmaids, Identity Thief, and The Heat, McCarthy’s spent the past several years cultivating a hilarious onscreen persona as the no-holds-barred everywoman who doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her. Everything’s led up to Tammy, but this is a wasted opportunity for McCarthy. Sadly, with Tammy, she insults herself and the audience that identifies with her—both male and female—by playing someone so needlessly uncouth and unironically witless that she doesn’t know Neil Armstrong from Lance Armstrong. McCarthy’s schtick had not grown stale before Tammy; now it feels old, tired, and self-destructive.
Aired: July 3, 2014
Web site: http://tammymovie.com/