Tammy, the latest big screen comedy from “Mike & Molly” star Melissa McCarthy, is as a film as big a sloppy mess as its main character. It’s a surprisingly unamusing and uninteresting film, especially considering the talent that McCarthy and writer/director Ben Falcone have to work with, and perhaps the best thing that can be said about it is that a scant 96 minutes, it’s mercifully short.
If you’ve seen the TV ads, you know all you need to know about the story: McCarthy plays Tammy, a sharp-as-a-bag-of-hammers fast food chain employee who in the course of a single day wrecks her car by hitting a deer, loses her job because she gets to work late and looking like she got attacked by a wild animal (which she did), and upon arriving home finds herself intruding on her husband Greg (Nat Faxon, TV’s “Ben & Kate”) making a romantic dinner for their neighbor Missi (Toni Colette).
Faced with so many difficult life challenges all at once, the potty-mouthed, clue-challenged Tammy does what one might expect anyone in that situation to do: she runs home to Mom (Allison Janney) and demands money and a car to leave town and all her troubles behind. When her mother quite sensibly refuses, Tammy finds an unexpected ally in her alcoholic, diabetic grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon), who offers to bankroll Tammy’s escape provided she can ride shotgun and get away from her overprotective daughter’s nagging.
Tammy reluctantly agrees, and no sooner have they hit the road that Tammy realizes she’s way in over her head trying to keep a leash on Pearl, who’s determined to have a good time no matter who or what she has to drag along with her. Their ensuing misadventures, which include a wrecked jet-ski rental, an ill-advised “armed” robbery, a couple of nights spent in jail, and some quality time spent with Pearl’s sassy, strong-minded cousin Lenore (Kathy Bates) and her partner Susanne (Sandra Oh), all serve to help Tammy and Pearl both realize what a mess they’ve both made of their existences, and provide an opportunity for them to potentially turn things around. Or maybe just screw things up even further. Either way, sounds hilarious, right?
It all must have at least sounded hilarious during the creative process to McCarthy and Falcone, who share screenwriting credit for the film. Having producers Will Farrell and Adam McKay backing their play and helping them recruit talent like Sarandon, Bates, Janney, and even Dan Aykroyd, who makes a brief appearance as Tammy’s dad, must have made it all look even more like a sure-fire hit. After all, with so many accomplished performers who have had more than their share of experience in comedy involved, how could it could go wrong?
All one has to do to find the answer to that question is look to last year’s Bad Grandpa, the Jackass-inspired comedy from Johnny Knoxville that featured a similar storyline about a naughty geriatric and his grandchild on the road bonding and causing mayhem along the way. Knoxville and his collaborators focused on the “Bad” in the title first and foremost, and let the sentimental aspects of the family story grow out of the performers’ chemistry with one another, and it worked. As brilliantly crude and in-your-face crass as Bad Grandpa turned out to be, it also turned out to have a bit of heart to it, a kind of rascally charm.
Tammy, on the other hand, tries to force the sentiment, and it fails miserably. The script and first-time director Falcone rely on McCarthy’s ability to charm and win over the audience while still being a schlubby, whiny Chris Farley-esque loser, and then expect them to care when the schlubby, whiny loser and her equally awful horndog lush of a grandparent rediscover their love for each other and their self-respect. Now McCarthy’s good and Sarandon is an all-time Hollywood great, but even these two can’t sell stupidity on this grand a scale. And arguably, there’s very little that’s funny about a granny with swollen ankles because she’s off her diabetes medication popping Oxycodone pills and washing them down with Jim Beam to get through the day. It’s just sad, and after a while trying to mine that sort of material for laughs, it’s boring.
If anything, McCarthy and Falcone should have made a movie focusing on Bates and Oh’s characters, who as the smartest and most well-balanced people in the film are also the most interesting. It’s a real shame they’re not in more of the film, and not given more to do aside from impart timely life lessons and lectures to their less-intelligent brethren. More of them and less of the leads might have helped this misfire be far more palatable.
But had that been the case, then most likely we as audiences wouldn’t have been treated to the sight of McCarthy trying and repeatedly failing to hop over a fast food counter with a bag over her head, and then what would they have used for the trailers to sell this as a laugh-out-loud comedy?
What a shame THAT would have been.
Score: 1 out of 5
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Gary Cole, with Dan Aykroyd and Kathy Bates. Directed by Ben Falcone.
Running Time: 96 minutes
Rated R for language including sexual references.
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