Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates
After being fired from her job at a fast food restaurant, Tammy (McCarthy) comes home to find her husband (Nat Faxon) having a romantic meal with one of their neighbours (Toni Colette). Tammy packs her things and goes to her mother’s (Allison Janney) house, which is only three houses down the road. After her mother refuses to let Tammy borrow her car, Tammy’s heavy drinking grandmother Pearl (Sarandon) allows her to borrow her car on one condition: That she comes along too, despite the fact that they do not like each other. This unlikely pairing embarks on a turbulent road trip, where they learn things about themselves and each other.
Many of the big name comedy actors working today could certainly be accused of having limited range and only ever playing the same character, and Melissa McCarthy is certainly one of those. Though she is undoubtedly a talented actress and a welcome addition to the list of mainstream comedic actors, and though she may well have been the funniest thing about Bridesmaids and The Heat, films such as the terrible Identity Thief suggest perhaps that her style lacks any real substance or depth. The fact Identity Thief was rubbish was not solely her fault, but in Tammy the comedy is by far the weakest things about a film that is supposed to be comedy.
The main comic set pieces of Tammy, featuring McCarthy’s trademark lewd and crude semi improvised comedy is quite abrasive viewing and feels flat and lazy. The slightly slapdash road movie narrative of Tammy, though quite predictable in structure, certainly has potential for some great comic moments, but it seems that McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone (who not only directs but also co-writes with McCarthy) just go for a lazy script and hope that making it up as they go along with McCarthy’s shouty & sweary skits will be enough. This is also not helped by first-time director Falcone’s lazy and flat direction. As with so many mainstream comedies, the cast (in this case all very talented) look like they are having a great time as they make things up as they go along, but as much as great comedy requires chemistry between actors, it also needs to actually be funny and involve audience enjoyment.
It is the supporting cast that certainly provide more laughs in what is supposedly McCarthy’s film, but their obvious talent is still wasted by a truly lacklustre script; Sarandon is of course a great actress and her sweary, drunk and horny grey haired grandmother is a great character, but once again let down by the script. The rest of the cast of familiar names are also wasted; Allison Janney, Kathy Bates, Dan Aykroyd, Toni Collette, Mark Duplass and Gary Cole are all good when they turn up, but all have their talent wasted by the script.
When Tammy tries to be serious is when it actually threatens to work. When not being crude and aggressive for the sake of it and going for a far more subtle approach McCarthy is an extremely likeable screen presence, and in these moments she makes her character genuinely sympathetic. Scenes that she shares with Duplass or Sarandon that are played with subtle comic notes or include genuine melancholy are actually engaging, but then McCarthy will start swearing again and undermine all the good work that has been done.
All this serves as a truly frustrating reminder of how good Tammy could have been and how much a waste of a good (if slightly formulaic) story and an array of acting talent it is. If McCarthy and Falcone are going to team up again, maybe they should have someone else involved in the script too to keep them in check and remind them to put more effort in the script and that mindless, improvised and quite random obscenity based sentences are not always the answer.
A talented cast, a potentially solid story and some genuinely decent moments of good drama are just totally ruined by lazy comic gags that are never funny and just plain irritating; Tammy is quite a simply a frustrating waste of the talent of its cast and an even more frustrating waste of time the time of the viewer.