“Tammy” Drives into a Sinkhole


Tammy (Ben Falcone, 2014)

Here’s the thing about Melissa McCarthy: in films such as Bridesmaids, This Is 40The Heat and now Tammy (and many more) – not to mention her television show “Mike & Molly” – she has played variations on a character who is overweight, profane and/or sloppily gross, and mined all of those characteristics for ever-more-desperate humor. She is certainly not devoid of talent (personally, I loved her on the long-running “Gilmore Girls“), and if you enjoy her shenanigans, then, well, you enjoy them. So be it. I usually don’t, so perhaps we come from different planets. I find it odd that there was such a hoopla last year over film critic Rex Reed’s (granted, very clumsy) assertions of the basic facts of her appeal, since McCarthy, herself (co-screenwriter, with her director husband, Ben Falcone, of this new film), attempts, in each new outing, to find ever more over-the-top ways to stereotype herself. But I won’t argue that point anymore, other than to say that Tammy breaks no new comedic (or any) ground – unless we’re talking sinkholes – but merely recycles much of what we have come to expect from a McCarthy effort. It’s her moment, so why should she stop doing the same-old same-old? God help us all.

There was a surprise in Tammy, however, and it was Susan Sarandon, and it was not a good surprise. Cast as the grandmother, Sarandon has neither the insanity nor stupidity to make her believable as a woman from whom McCarthy is descended. That, and she just looks too good. In fact, she looks like Susan Sarandon in a gray wig, with a little bit of make-up on. We’re meant to believe that she’s lived her whole life as a hard-drinking hell-raiser, yet we see none of that in her face. McCarthy and Falcone would have been better served casting Kathy Bates – who appears halfway through the film as Sarandon’s cousin – in the grandmother role. I love Susan Sarandon, but Bates is more versatile of an actress, and could definitely play both dissolute and crazy.

Plot? Tammy is a lunatic loser in a dead-end job (from which she is fired at the start of the film), with a cheating husband. Somehow, her mother is Allison Janney (another bit of strange casting). When she walks to her parents’ house (they live next door) to take refuge from the awfulness of her life, grandma – looking for adventure – offers up both cash and car if Tammy will take her on a road trip. So off they go, and mayhem follows. Whether or not you find it funny may determine whether or not you continue to read my reviews.

To be fair, there was one moment where I laughed out loud. One: Tammy, locked outside of her motel room, sleeps on the doorstep with a package of donuts in hand (see, above, about stereotyping), and then the camera pans left and we see a raccoon munching on one of them. It doesn’t seem funny in the retelling. Sorry. I did laugh, though. Oh, and every time Mark Duplass is on screen, the film almost works. I don’t know why. See the movie and help explain it to me. Or don’t, and spend your time wisely.

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