Review: Melissa McCarthy's Comedy 'Tammy' Hardly a Real Movie
by Jeremy Kirk
July 2, 2014
Some defense seems to be in order when it comes to Melissa McCarthy. Ever since she lit up audiences in Bridesmaids, the comedienne has been panned as much as praised, a byproduct of her overweight physicality and choice in taking more prat-fally types of roles. Just because she's an overweight actress does not mean that every joke she makes is a "fat joke," something she's especially getting nailed for with her latest comedy vehicle, Tammy. It's not a one-joke movie, but rather hardly a movie at all. Instead, the movie serves primarily as a showcase for the talents of McCarthy, hitting pratfall after pratfall, goofy gesture after goofy gesture. It can be funny, but the hollowness far outweighs the abundance of humor it serves up.
Essentially a road movie, Tammy begins for our eponymous character with a totalled car, a job termination, and an unwelcome surprise when she gets home to her husband (Nat Faxon). She needs to get out of town, the only person in her life with a car willing to hand it over being her lovable grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon). Pearl's terms are simple: Tammy has to take her along for the ride, and she's always had a hankering to see Niagara Falls. With a wad of cash, the car, and little else, Tammy and Pearl set out on the open road ready for whatever adventure and excitement may be headed their way.
There's not much getting ready involved when it comes down to it, because apart from the few setbacks the two encounter, there's not much to Tammy's screenplay. McCarthy wrote the screenplay with husband Ben Falcone, also serving as director of the film, yet neither are too concerned with certain parts of the story, important parts like pacing, story development, or even structure. That single-word title says a mouthful, as that's all the movie is about, Tammy and the ridiculousness that comes from being around her.
The relationship at the heart of the film is worthwhile, Tammy and Pearl being fun enough characters to carry a Thelma & Louise-esque narrative, Thelma & Her Grandmother Who Just So Happened to Have Played Louise. Sadly, McCarthy and Falcone have absolutely nothing in store for all these other characters running around the set, all these notable actors having absolute diddly to do. They represent aspects in Tammy's life, and the development that does take place under the film's hood has only one purpose, bringing Tammy to cinematic life.
It is fortunate that the film's bread-and-butter is as entertaining as Melissa McCarthy. The actress doesn't quite step up her comedic game here, rather goes through the motions of this character who was clearly designed for her alone. And yet, when McCarthy prat-falls or obscenely gestures or comes on way too aggressively, she elicits a genuine laughter from her audience. Like the Chris Farleys and Jim Carreys before her, McCarthy is a comedic actress who knows which side of the funny bone to tickle. Her joke success rate isn't quite 100%, but whose is?
McCarthy does provide something of a surprise in her performance late in Tammy, a dramatic scene with enough choreography and predictability that McCarthy's genuine emotions are the only aspects that save it. Sarandon, buried underneath an awful, grey wig, holds her own in every scene with the lead, not just the dramatic moments. Kathy Bates should also be mentioned, as she brightens any lighthearted scene in the film and even delivers some honest-to-God power during her own, dramatic scene with McCarthy.
That scene, by the way, provides the only dialogue in the film that strives for anything more than laugh-out-loud comedy. It's a quiet message buried deep within the hard-candied, outer shell of this semi-sweet, reasonably funny movie, as if any substantial storytelling Tammy might offer up is an afterthought. The real message here is that Melissa McCarthy is funny, and she knows exactly what style of comedy works best for her. As a sp0tlight on that talent, Tammy achieves a sutiable amount of success. As a complete movie, though, and this is in no way a jab at McCarthy herself, it's mostly fat worth trimming.
Jeremy's Rating: 5 out of 10
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