Mark Reviews Movies

Tammy

TAMMY

1 ½ Stars

Director: Ben Falcone

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Mark Duplass, Kathy Bates, Gary Cole, Allison Janney, Nat Faxon, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Ben Falcone, Sarah Baker, Rich Williams, Dan Akroyd

MPAA Rating:  (for language including sexual references)

Running Time: 1:36

Release Date: 7/2/14


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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 1, 2014

Tammy is a nearly laugh-less affair. The jokes are either too obvious or rely on our patience for the actors to riff on a joke well after its point has been made. Some scenes here play out like a free-form improv session. There is no direct aim for a punch line; the actors simply dive into a scenario, try one thing or another, and pray to the comedy gods that at least some of their improvisation will be funny. That it's not, of course, is not necessarily evidence that these actors are not capable of being funny, but it is proof that even the most gifted of comedians can benefit from at least a little more structure than what's provided here.

Take Melissa McCarthy, who stars in the eponymous role. She is, beyond a doubt, a very talented and very funny comedic actress. She can switch from rudeness and crudeness to sincerity and sympathy at the drop of a hat, and both modes register with us to one degree or another. She has genuine presence, and that presence is grounded in how genuine she is.

In Tammy, we buy her character's lack of social graces—swearing at a broken vending machine, desperately flirting with men to the point of abuse, responding to being fired from a fast food joint by telling the customers they aren't eating real meat. We equally buy that, beneath Tammy's harsh exterior, there is a sad soul reaching out to grasp some understanding of why her life is as unfulfilling as it is. She reaches—further and further still—and tumbles to ground.

McCarthy has a shtick, and she does it well. This movie is tailored to it. That shouldn't come as a surprise, considering that the screenplay was co-written by McCarthy (with director Ben Falcone, who is—if one likes to know such details—her husband). It's also no surprise that the actress is the best thing in the movie. It is, though, a little disappointing that her performance is really the only thing holding the movie together, and it's even more discouraging that, despite McCarthy's dedication to the role, the character is little more than a one-joke creation.

As for the situations in which Tammy finds herself, well, they're a bit depressing in terms of comic effect. The movie opens with Tammy hitting a deer with her car and attempting to give it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by blowing in its face.

The day gets worse for her when she's fired from her job at a fast food restaurant—taking her sweet time leaving the place in order to cause all sorts of health code violations. She returns home to discover that her husband (Nat Faxon) has been cheating on her with their neighbor (Toni Collette). Tammy again takes her sweet time leaving the house—lunging at her husband's mistress and falling to the ground after being hit in the face, climbing on the kitchen counter to get some cash and falling to ground after jumping off the counter, and stopping to pick up the clothes that have fallen to ground from her suitcase.

The central comic motif should be clear by now (No, it's not the "falling to the ground" thing, although it should be noted that the deer knocks Tammy to the ground, too). These are awkward situations that become even more embarrassing as Tammy's errors or external forces make matters worse.

There's no progression, though; a gag simply happens because there needs to be one. The movie's structure is similar. It's an episodic road trip, in which Tammy agrees to take her alcoholic grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) from Southern Illinois to Niagara Falls—but mistakenly ends up in Missouri.

The movie rambles from one comic setup to the next, and then those setups ramble on and on. There's a scene in which Tammy robs a fast food place to bail grandma out of jail, and it veers from broad physical humor to random banter to the sad realization that Tammy is so desperate for normal human interaction that she tries to strike up a friendship with one of her victims. There's no focus to this scene, and the actors are clearly scrambling to do something—anything—that might get even a chuckle.

McCarthy isn't alone in having her talents wasted here. Sarandon is good as a bitter woman with nothing to lose. Mark Duplass and Gary Cole turn up as potential love interests for the women, and Kathy Bates plays Pearl's pyromaniac of a cousin. The pieces for good comedy are there in Tammy, but like the position in which our heroine ends up so many times, they're scattered all over the floor.

Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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