– Summary –
Director : Ben Falcone
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Kathy Bates, Dan Aykroyd, Sandra Oh, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Nat Faxon, Ben Falcone.
Approx Running Time : 96 Minutes
Synopsis: Deadbeat daughter Tammy and her drunken, near-death grandmother abscond on a cross-country journey of self-discovery.
What we think : Loud, abrasive, unfunny – and that’s just McCarthy – Tammy proves once more that her one-note character, a tub-o-lard rough diamond, has run its course. After portraying the same character in her entire theatrical career, it’s time for audiences to turn their backs on this unfunny, obnoxiously inward-looking comedienne. Tammy’s only saving grace is a nice performance by Susan Sarandon (who must have figured this would be an easy paycheck); the rest of the film is an awkward, largely unfunny roller-coaster of McCarthy’s vulgar schtick swerving from one situation to another in a vain attempt to make us laugh.
If I’m honest, I went into this film with exceptionally low expectations. If I was lucky, I’d be nicely surprised. If, however, things panned out as I expected, Tammy would be yet another skin-crawlingly obnoxious performance by Melissa McCarthy, a woman whose only act is to behave with such uneven focus and relatively vulgar manner, her roles in each of her films to-date could be summarized exactly the same. No doubt Americans find overweight people funny in that inward-looking self-deprecating way, a little like the late Chris Farley (whom I would categorize as a male McCarthy if he wasn’t around a lot earlier, doing practically the same thing), but today’s audiences obviously have a lower appreciation for fat jokes and a grimy, unkempt overweight woman trying for giggles on the big screen. I don’t mean to be mean, but a part of me watches McCarthy’s act and wonders if she’s ever considered shedding some bulk so she can keep making films for longer (Oh, did I just admit that?), or whether she’s so attuned to her “I’m fat, so laugh at me” routine it’s just a fate accompli. Either way, Tammy represents another over-accomplishment for the increasingly widescreen performer, as it hurls itself at the screen with a vapid, irritating sonic howl that refuses to die for the duration of its running time. Yeah, Tammy’s terrible.
Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) has a bad day: she is sacked from her job at a fast food joint, she discovers her husband (Nat Faxon) is cheating on her (with Toni Collette, no less), and he mother (Allison Janney) refuses to help her out yet again. Leaving town with her alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon), Tammy winds her way towards Niagara Falls (a place her grandmother has always dreamed of visiting), encountering romantic farmers (Gary Cole and Mark Duplass), the law (Tammy’s grandmother is incarcerated after carrying drugs, while Tammy herself spends a month in prison after robbing a store), and Tammy’s lesbian aunt (Kathy Bates) and her wife (Sandra Oh).
What. A. Trainwreck. Even with my lowered expectations, I still wasn’t expecting the assault on my intellect offered up by McCarthy’s latest “comedy” venture, a film written by the star and her director husband, Ben Falcone, and designed to showcase (or perhaps reveal) the limits of her comedy schtick. Tammy’s one-note humor, offered by McCarthy’s rolling-downhill performance style, is as uneven as McCarthy is wide – hey, if a fat woman is going to promote herself as a “star”, then she’s open for all the ridicule I can afford everyone else, why should I not? – and frankly, it’s depressing. Her character in Bridesmaids was repeated in Identity Thief (ugh), which itself was repeated almost beat-for-beat in The Heat (a film only improved with Sandra Bullock’s inclusion), and once more, McCarthy goes for the depressingly overweight, low-class, vulgar, obnoxious, downtrodden character to burden us in Tammy.
If you met Tammy in real life, you’d probably punch her. I know, because that’s what I felt like doing each time McCarthy appeared on the screen, and she’s in this film a lot. McCarthy’s among the small group of larger ladies (including Australia’s own Rebel Wilson) currently tearing up the small and large screen, but I’m starting to wonder if there’s any more to her abilities other than to play a vagabond-esque character in search of self-worth. Perhaps McCarthy is secretly trying to work through some personal weight issues with these characters; whatever is going on behind closed doors, the translation to the screen is commercially viable, yet critically incoherent. As a character, Tammy is an uneven, unfocused attempt to latch a single-dimensional character to a two dimensional plot, sidebarred with Susan Sarandon’s older matriarch performance (in a vague nod to Thelma & Louise) as Tammy’s grandmother. McCarthy can’t make Tammy enjoyable, because she’s such a reprehensible character that we can’t help but be annoyed by her – if we’re supposed to feel sympathy for her, this works even less because McCarthy’s so set on draining us with the unkempt, stained-with-piss cliche she’s become, it’s hard to counter past the vulgar language and obnoxious social behaviors.
Tammy works as a road-trip, (again, a nod to Thelma & Louise, I guess) with McCarthy and Sarandon engaging with each other and the wider world as they travel to Niagara Falls. As such, Tammy’s situational comedy needs to work well to link the film’s “sequences” together, something Ben Falcone can’t seem to do. It’s a “fits and spurts” film, this one, with a few minor chuckles being brushed aside for McCarthy’s centre-stage abrasiveness running roughshod over what few moments of tenderness and heartfelt emotion appear through the cracks. On a purely superficial, slapstick concern, Tammy is found wanting severely through it’s uneven opening half, while as an intellectual piece, there’s only blank faces and shoulder shrugs to be found for a willing audience. At a vulgar, base level, Tammy offers some crude jokes and moments of levity (best bit? Watching Susan Sarandon drink her way through this movie!) and I guess there’s some heart involved late in the story, but by then Tammy is a lost cause of obnoxious social commentary, McCarthy’s skanky approach to the character, and Falcone’s inability to rein in his wife’s burdensome role in the movie. If, in the future, she is forced to pull a whole chicken out from under a boob and chew on it, I’m gonna call it – she’s a female Fat Bastard.
I regret watching this movie, I truly do. I don’t often say that, but after The Heat and Identity Thief (the latter of which simply refused to review, I was so appalled) I can quite easily say I find Melissa McCarthy to be incredibly lucky to be as popular as she is. Frankly, her style is annoying, her films beggar intelligence, and the very fact she’s held up as some role model for larger women (what the f@ck happened to Oprah?) makes me weep for the future of women everywhere. That said, here I sit being paid nothing to write a review on a film she’s made millions from, so I guess she has the last laugh. If only she used her powers for good, instead of settling for this shitty, mean-spirited, ill-conceived and poorly constructed disaster of a film. If you waste your time on it like I did, after reading this, you deserve all the pain you get, friend.