Thursday, July 3, 2014
Movie Review: 'Tammy' runs on fumes
Melissa McCarthy is a tough one.
On the one hand, she’s a bold performer who commits wholeheartedly to often brutal physical comedy and challenges Hollywood stereotypes of what an A-list actress looks, acts and sounds like.
But on the other hand, her filmography is largely populated by one-note juvenile comedies in which she is forced to stumble over herself while muttering asinine attempts at humor. It may be intentional, but it doesn’t change the fact that McCarthy has been reduced to a career of being laughed at while audiences pat themselves on the back for promoting body diversity.
So it was with some trepidation that I walked into my screening of Tammy, which McCarthy co-wrote with her husband Ben Falcone (a very funny and underrated actor in his own right), who also makes his directorial debut on the film. I wanted to like Tammy, but the pre-conceived stereotypes of a “Melissa McCarthy movie” weren’t helped by the horrendous trailer, which starts with an unkempt McCarthy robbing a fast food chain with a greasy paper sack over her head and goes downhill from there.
The trailer is bad, the movie is worse.
After the one-two punch of losing her job and her man, Tammy (McCarthy) hops in an old Cadillac with her boozy, irreverent grandmother Pearl (an unnervingly unglamorous Susan Sarandon) and heads into the sunset, ostensibly in the direction of Niagra Falls.
They don’t make it very far, instead getting caught up in road-trip comedy hijinks that are neither inventive nor particularly exciting. For an R-rated comedy starring an actress known for crass (Bridesmaids, anyone?) Tammy pulls its punches, never quite deciding whether it wants to be a bawdy romp or a sentimental heart-puller about family or life or who even knows.
The story changes lanes so many times, throwing plot points out the window with as little circumstance as roadside litter, that the destination feels irrelevant. It meanders along with so little urgency, arriving at laughs that are too few are far between, that the audience would be forgiven for loudly asking “are we there yet?”
Tammy gets a welcome injection midway through from Kathy Bates, who plays Pearl’s explosion-loving dog-store entrepreneur cousin Lenore. Our cast gathers at Lenore’s home for a lively fourth of July celebration and for a brief period it feels like an actual movie with character evolution and purpose.
That dream is short-lived, however, as the bizarre attempts to inject themes into the malaise throw the vehicle into a downward slope toward a welcome finish line.
One would hope that working from her own script, McCarthy would finally have found a project that allows her to flex her range and be more than a discount bin Three Stooges punch line. Sadly, Tammy is not that project, meaning we’ll have to wait a little longer to see something that surprises us.
*Tammy opens nationwide on Wednesday, July 2.