Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) is a character, at least I'm guessing, that you will immensely enjoy spending time with even if the film that surrounds her is wildly uneven, occasionally badly paced, and filled with a cast that is capable of doing so much more than they're asked to do in this 96-minute R-rated comedy co-written by McCarthy with her husband, Ben Falcone.
There's a winning story trying to rise to the surface here, but the script rushes things to get Tammy on the road with her alcoholic and diabetic grandmother, ably played by Susan Sarandon, and never really allows the kind of expository foundation that would have made these characters really matter.
The film kicks off with Tammy having what is likely the latest in a lifelong series of bad days. Her car gets hit by a deer on the way to her job at a greasy fast food joint where her unsympathetic boss (played by Falcone) promptly fires her for this latest mishap. After leaving her car smoking on the side of the road, she walks home only to discover her husband (Nat Faxon) having "dinner" with the next door neighbor (Toni Collette).
Yep, I think that all qualifies as a bad day.
So, she does what any thirtysomething does after having lost everything and heads over to her mother's house to borrow her vehicle. Mom (Allison Janney) isn't having it, but grandma (Susan Sarandon) has $6,700 and a car and an overwhelming desire to get out of the house and go see Niagara Falls.
Cue the road music.
It likely goes without saying that there will be an ample amount of road hijinks for Tammy and her grandmother to deal with, and it likely goes without saying that Tammy will learn lessons about herself and ultimately redeem herself while also meeting a guy (Mark Duplass) along the way who appreciates her brashness but also sees a lot more in Tammy than Tammy sees in herself. The majority of the action takes place in Missouri when the two find more than their share of drama and end up being rescued by one of Grandma's old friends (Kathy Bates) and her lesbian lover (Sandra Oh). A Fourth of July party allows family secrets and festering conflicts to come to the surface.
The simple truth is that most people who go to see a Melissa McCarthy film are going less for the storyline and far more to watch McCarthy's relentlessly bold and yet sympathetic comedy. My gut tells me that most McCarthy fans will come away from the film more than satisfied with McCarthy and the film even if it's not quite up to par with most of her other endeavors. It's absolutely fine that McCarthy has clearly cashed in some of her well earned chips in creating this opportunity for she and her husband to work together. While Falcone is certainly competent as a director, one can only hope that if he directs in the future that he works on his pacing just a bit as there are several bits in Tammy that feel awkwardly timed and muted in impact. There are comedic moments that should work far more than they should, while there are also moments that should be significantly more heartwarming than what unfolds here.
McCarthy, an Oscar nominee for Bridesmaids, has already proven she can act and I can't help but be just a tad disappointed that she keeps going back to this type of disheveled/chaotic character that really doesn't tap into her full range. She is well paired with Sarandon, though at times their comic stylings were just a tad uneven. Kathy Bates manages to shine, as usual, despite not really being given much to do. The same is true for Mark Duplass, though folks like Nat Faxon, Sandra Oh, and Toni Collette are completely wasted here.
Tammy is a good film, but it's a film that is constantly flirting with the idea that it's going to be something truly special and it just never gets there. The film succeeds on the sheer strength of McCarthy's performance and her ability to play even the most subtle moments for maximum laughter and warmth. While Tammy will likely please the majority of McCarthy's fans, it's not likely that this flawed yet funny comedy will win her many new fans.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic