Tammy (New Line Cinema, R)

film tammy-smBy now we all know that McCarthy can pratfall and crazy talk with the best of them, but I was hoping we’d get a chance to see more of the depth she can bring to a character.




film tammy

Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) has problems. She’s already late for work when her hooptie of a car is totaled, which causes her to be attacked by a deer and fired from the fast food gig she can ill afford to lose. Tammy finally gets home, only to realize that her husband has been making time with a neighbor lady while she’s at work. She decides to leave her small Illinois hometown, but since she’s nearly penniless and without a ride, any road trip is dependent on her boozy grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), coming along.

Tammy is the latest in a long line of everything’s-falling-apart-I-need-to-get-back-on-track movies. And while the indignities Tammy suffers during the first 15 minutes of the film are many, it’s pretty clear straightaway that Tammy’s life fell into disrepair a long time ago; she just never noticed it.

Greg (Nat Faxon), Tammy’s cheating husband, is a normal-looking guy, and they share a house two doors down from her normal parents, on a street that fits his khaki-pants-and-polo-shirt normalness. But, Tammy seems to fit none of this average everydayness. At first glance, in fact, she appears like someone who’s never had anyone’s affection and probably lives in a van down by the river. Tammy is slovenly (hers is the shaggiest fast food uniform I’ve ever seen), silly (she thinks the definition of “pattern” is “galaxy”), and a little crazy (most people want to get revenge on their boss when fired, but they usually refrain from shaking their dandruff all over the burger buns).

What bugs me most about Tammy is that the movie clearly doesn’t understand who she—or Pearl, for that matter—really is. It feels like a mostly pointless exercise made simply so McCarthy and Sarandon can clown around on screen. There’s almost never any kind of reasoning behind what these two do, and you can never tell who’s going to be more ridiculous when dealing with a situation.

Logic would tell us that Pearl will have just the right amount of drunken, I’ve-already-ruined-my-life wisdom for Tammy, but Pearl rarely offers Tammy sound advice. She does find a married stranger to screw, buy alcohol for teens, and regale Tammy with tales of her time as a groupie with the Allman Brothers Band, however, thereby muddling Tammy’s already muddled life and making it even harder for the granddaughter to figure herself out. I feel like the writers made Pearl a drunk simply so they didn’t have to find reasons for her behavior.

The character of Tammy is just as scattered and inexplicable. Remember all that apparent normalcy that surrounds her home life? Well, if the portrait we’re shown of Tammy and Greg in matching sweaters early in their relationship is any indication, she was once firmly entrenched in that routine. Was she just good at hiding her crazy under an argyled bushel, or did she crack at some point? If she cracked, what the hell happened to her? The one possible answer doesn’t make much sense, like most of Tammy itself.

I was cautiously optimistic about Tammy. By now we all know that McCarthy can pratfall and crazy talk with the best of them, but I was hoping that, especially in a film written by McCarthy and her writer/director/actor husband Ben Falcone, we’d get a chance to see more of the depth she can bring to a character. We saw some of that in Bridesmaids and even Identity Thief, but the duo chose to go for most common-denominator comedy that might make you laugh a bit, but will absolutely leave you wanting more. | Adrienne Jones

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