Directed by Ben Falcone
Running time: 96 minutes
Starring- Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates and Dan Aykroyd
(Movie House Dublin Road Preview Screening 02/07/2014)
ALWAYS the bridesmaid, never the bride – Melissa McCarthy moves beyond her normally golden supporting roles and takes centre stage as the writer, producer and lead star of Tammy, a somewhat self-serving comedy directed by husband and fellow actor Ben Falcone.
Following her break-out role in Paul Feig’s hilarious Bridesmaids, McCarthy earned popularity as the stand out in underwhelming films such as The Heat, Identity Thief, and was arguably the only good thing to come out of The Hangover III. Her physical, obnoxious, brash comedy routine as the outspoken all-American has no doubt been her most appealing quality in certain parts of the world.
Tammy is keen to show there’s more to actress than this, as the film begins as an over-the-top, beer and cheeseburger fuelled, slapstick road trip movie, only to turn into an unconvincing parable about dealing with low self-esteem and trying to sort your life out for the better.
McCarthy plays Tammy, a thirty-something disheveled slob of a woman who only realizes her life is going nowhere when, in the space of one fateful day, she crashes her car into a deer, loses her job at the local fast-food joint and walks in on her husband having a romantic dinner with the next door neighbor.
Determined to escape all of her problems, she decides to leave town and go cross-country with Pearl, her care-free, alcoholic grandmother who, in a rather bizarre casting choice, is portrayed by Susan Sarandon in a silver wig.
Casting Sarandon in the role of Grandma Pearl is confusing, given that there’s only twenty-four year age gap between her and McCarthy. Stranger things have happened in real life, but even on those rare occasions when it becomes part of the gag, like when the pair meet a randy barfly (Gary Cole) and his more romantic son (Mark Duplass) in a bar, but it just isn’t funny. Sarandon still looks great for her age and not even a curly permed toupee can convince us otherwise.
Perhaps then her casting is deliberate, as some sort of throwback to Ridley Scott’s 1991 classic road movie Thelma and Louise. Sarandon channels a care-free spirit that predictably rubs up the McCarthy’s aggressive, pent-up Tammy the wrong way on more than one occasion. It makes for the odd laugh, but generally many of the jokes seem all too familiar.
Sarandon isn’t the only famous face McCarthy has managed to recruit. Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh, Toni Colette, Dan Ackroyd and Allison Janney all appear in minor roles throughout the film. However, they all manage about twelve lines between them, with Toni Colette in particular being criminally underused. Even Cole and Duplass, the only supporting characters to make it beyond more than one scene, stick to their underwritten, one-dimensional roles so as not to intrude the patented odd-couple shtick between McCarthy and Sarandon.
As the pair crash get drunk, crash a jet-ski, get drunk again, wind-up in jail, attend a Fourth of July party for lesbians, and get drunk one final time, Tammy does stir-up a few laughs, but nowhere near as many as it would like to, drunkenly staggering across the not-so-fine line between farce and sentimentally.
One scene involving the robbery of a Mc-Restaurant seems to be the one scene where we finally understand what the film is trying to do. Her face hidden under a greasy paper bag, McCarthy dishes out her trademark obnoxious adlibbed humour while at the same time showing she can manage a little sweetness at the same time. It makes for one of the film’s funnier highlights.
At this point, it’s worth noting that the film also has Will Ferrell and Adam McKay on board as producers. No wonder then that Tammy tries leans towards the (Ron) Burgundy end of the spectrum, although as far as quotes go, it ends up falling flat on its face.
Desperately trying to appeal to two very different audiences, the film ultimately satisfies neither, trumping moments of schmaltzy self-discovery with cheap jokes about drinking beer and raunchy old people.
McCarthy does show she has other talents outside of her comfort zone, but it’s just a shame that no matter what the situation, her character defaults back to the whingy loudmouth. As far as developing a redeeming character arc goes, it’s an unforgivable error especially when you consider that her husband is the director.
Ultimately, if the moral of the road movie is that changing the direction of your life will always work out for the better, then Tammy does just that, only to realize that it’s actually on ended up on a busy roundabout with absolutely no idea which way to turn next.
Review by Leigh Forgie