by Bob Garver
July 7, 2014. “Tammy” is a movie where we’re supposed to laugh at bad things happening to a pathetic character. Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) is responsible for a lot of the bad things about her life, but the world keeps piling problems upon her anyway. She is not likeable or resilient enough for us to root for her, but not heinous enough for us to root for her misfortune and comeuppance. We’re not rooting for anything except for the movie to be over.
As the film opens, Tammy loses her job, her car and her marriage in short order. Her level of fault in these matters is debatable, but the temper tantrums she throws in response are definitely ill-advised. Needing to run away but with nowhere to run, she agrees to road trip to Niagra Falls with her drug-addled grandmother (Susan Sarandon, getting eaten alive by the dumb script).
The plot is pretty much your standard road trip movie. The women bond, they party, they argue, they fight. They do irresponsible things that make them desperate for money. They do irresponsible things that land them in jail. Romantic interests are introduced in the form of the game-as-ever Gary Cole for Sarandon and an uncomfortable-looking Mark Duplass for Tammy. I get that their relationship is supposed to be initially awkward, but I never got the impression that the Duplass character was doing anything other than indulging Tammy just to be polite.
The humor mostly revolves around Tammy’s obnoxious personality. McCarthy brings her typical outspokenness to the role, but is sorely lacking the charm needed to make the character tolerable. The film is directed by Ben Falcone, McCarthy’s husband. I think the goal was to push the two as some sort of comedic power couple and prove that Falcone is just as talented as his Oscar-nominated wife. Falcone’s direction is meandering and otherwise poorly placed. If I am to think that the two are equally talented because of “Tammy,” it’s because Falcone has dragged McCarthy down to his level.
My last two reviews (“Think Like a Man Too” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction”) have each been one-star. I don’t want to earn a reputation as a sourpuss, but those were both terrible movies. “Tammy” is pretty lousy too, and it was on track to the same fate and I found nothing remotely enjoyable about its first hour. But then a ray of sunshine peeked through in the form of Sarandon’s distant cousin played by Kathy Bates. Bates gives the movie a shot of respectability that it doesn’t deserve. That backhanded compliment is the nicest thing I’ve been able to say about any movie in the last three weeks.
I think my feelings toward “Tammy” can best be summed up by that scene where she robs the fast food joint, the one that they’ve been showing in the trailers for what seems like forever now. Tammy is breaking the law, but her intentions are good. She’s threatening the employees’ lives but she’s kind of nice about it. She bumbles and bungles at every turn, but she’s technically successful. Do these conflicting elements give the character or the film a complex dual nature? In a better movie they might, but here they just cancel each other out into a dull mush that I wish I could have avoided altogether. In this case, I sympathize with the employees she robs. Tammy’s fake gun isn’t fooling anybody, but they have to take it seriously because of corporate policy. Similarly, “Tammy” isn’t fooling me into thinking it’s an interesting movie, but I have to take it seriously because it made the most money of all the new releases this past weekend.
One and a half stars out of five.