July 02, 2014

Tammy

starstar

A movie review by James Berardinelli



Tammy

COMEDY:

United States, 2014

U.S. Release Date:

2014-07-02

Running Length:

1:36

MPAA Classification:

R (Profanity, Sexual Content)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

1.85:1

Cast:

Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Mark Duplass, Gary Cole

Director:

Ben Falcone

Screenplay:

Melissa McCarthy & Ben Falcone

Cinematography:

Russ T. Alsobrook

Music:

Michael Andrews

U.S. Distributor:

Warner Brothers

Subtitles:

none


Tammy is a road trip movie and, like many road trip movies, it embraces a meandering, aimless tone. It's often said for films of this sort that it's the journey that matters, not the destination. Unfortunately, in this case, neither is worth the price of admission. Tammy defines the term "forgettable." There's nothing about this movie that's either so bad or so good that it sticks in the memory. The uneven comedy offers a few sporadic chuckles but it's neither extreme enough nor inventive enough to allow for more. The hackneyed dramatic elements fail to tweak the heart-strings. A week after seeing this movie, I dare you to remember what it was about.

Tammy puts Melissa McCarthy, playing the title character, and Susan Sarandon, playing Grandma Pearl, on the road together, headed for Niagara Falls after Tammy loses her job at a fast food restaurant and learns that her husband is having an affair with a neighbor. Along the way, Tammy and Pearl have misadventures that include an assignation with a randy old man (Gary Cole), a run-in with the police, a daylight robbery, and a "lesbian Fourth of July." Tammy finds a new love, Grandma comes to grips with her alcoholism, and Dan Aykroyd gets to make a cameo.

Tammy was written by the husband-and-wife team of Ben Falcone and McCarthy. In addition to having a small role as Tammy's boss, Falcone directs, making his feature debut. The movie has the feel of something that might have worked better as an indie film with a stronger dramatic undercarriage. The need to insert the hit-or-miss humor post-Bridesmaids audiences now associate with the lead actress takes away from the relationship between Tammy and Pearl and too many failed jokes rob the film of a strong identity. To her credit, McCarthy doesn't try to push the envelope the way she has in some other recent films; the language is salty but the gross-out factor is kept to a minimum.

Although it's difficult to sympathize with Tammy because of her brash insensitivity, this character isn't as overtly offensive as the one essayed by McCarthy in Identity Thief. However, she's also not as genuine or likeable as Molly Flynn (the sitcom role the actress inhabited for most of the '00s). There's also no evidence of chemistry between McCarthy and Susan Sarandon - a key ingredient necessary for any mismatched buddy relationship. (Not to mention that it's difficult envisioning Sarandon, who's 68, as the grandmother of the 44-year old McCarthy. Mother, yes. Grandmother, no.)

There are a couple of scenes that work and these keep Tammy from sinking into unwatchability. One involves Tammy and Pearl's attempts to return money stolen to a fast food joint. Another is a confrontation between the inebriated grandmother and her bitter granddaughter that evidences shadings of anger and pain. These moments offer glimpses of what a less mainstream-minded Tammy might have offered. Unfortunately, the desire to appeal to the masses and to appease McCarthy's growing legion of movie fans has resulted in a sleep-inducing product that may understandably have trouble finding its audience. If it's a choice between seeing this and Transformers: Age of Extinction this weekend, my advice is to stay home.

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