186 – Tammy (2014)

Melissa McCarthy made a name for herself on the lightly comedic but mostly grounded television series The Gilmore Girls, but she became a star as a member of the titular group in 2011’s Bridesmaids. Her character, Megan, was loud, physical, obnoxious, and quite funny. She has continued to play roughly the same character ever since, to lesser degrees of success. It’s not her fault – that kind of character becomes grating after a time. Just ask Zach Galifianakis. Tammy is McCarthy’s feature writing debut, along with husband Ben Falcone (who also directs). If any movie will show whether McCarthy hopes to break out of her “fat-lady-go-boom” phase, this ought to be the one.

McCarthy stars as Tammy, a woman in her 40’s who loses her job and her husband on the same day, prompting her to finally get out of the small town that has tormented her throughout her life. To her dismay, she is joined by her grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), a sharp woman with a penchant for sex and liquor. The two hope to make it to Niagara Falls, but get waylaid by more than one obstacle.

McCarthy does a lot of hard work in the picture. We get flashes of the physical comedy in a few scenes, but luckily that is not the entire film. The actress gets to play a few emotional moments as well, but they mostly don’t work because of Tammy’s failing as a scripted character. Tammy is all over the place. One minute she will be bright, and the next she is dumber than dirt. Sometimes she is considerate, but then she follows it up by being awfully selfish and self-centered. McCarthy and Falcone seem to be going for layers, but what they’ve wrought just comes off as sloppy.

The same problems abound for Pearl. Sarandon puts her all into the character, despite playing well above her age (she is 24 years older than McCarthy, and 13 years older than Allison Janney, who plays her daughter), but the script calls for actions and dialogue that come out of nowhere, and feel forced rather than affecting, as they were clearly intended.

It doesn’t help that the movie just isn’t very funny. I know I said last week that it is hard to judge a movie comedically because sense of humor is subjective, but there aren’t even that many jokes in Tammy. The movie has so much exposition to get out that the comedy never gets a chance to breathe. Here’s the thing – I actually laughed a bunch at the few identifiable jokes in the movie. A shame, really.

In the end I just don’t have a whole lot to say about Tammy. Everyone clearly means well, and it is a good vehicle for McCarthy in theory, but the final product is sloppy and tonally confused. Sarandon deserves better. Kathy Bates (who is quite good) deserved better. McCarthy deserves better, which is too bad, considering she is one of the driving forces behind the film. If she can’t write the best project for herself, surely Hollywood will keep her in the ghetto in which she is currently penned.

Is the ghetto metaphor too much? Oh well. Too late to change it now.

 

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