PLOT: After her entire life ruined in the span of a few hours, former fast food employee Tammy decides on a whim to leave her town, and entire life, behind. However, she's forced to take her alcoholic grandmother along for the ride.
REVIEW: I'm genuinely unsure how to feel about Melissa McCarthy at this point. For a little while there, I thought her over-the-top pratfalls and crude style of sloppy, self-deprecating humor were thrust upon her and she just ran with it. She's seizing the moment, and she'll take what the writers of IDENTITY THIEF and THE HEAT will give her. But watching TAMMY, which was written by McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone (who also directed), I started to wonder if perhaps it's time for her to step back and reassess her on-screen legacy. For TAMMY presents McCarthy in the most unflattering light yet, and though I'm sure the actress and her husband feel they are playing to her strengths with Tammy's aggressively ridiculous behavior, the movie eventually feels like a forum to showcase her worst instincts.
For starters, Tammy is thoroughly dumb, and I'm not saying that to be mean: she is a person who doesn't recognize the names of Neil Armstrong or Mark Twain, and the movie goes out of its way to highlight her ignorance. It's not the kind of churlish but good-hearted naiveté that made McCarthy memorable in BRIDESMAIDS; this is a woman who should not be allowed to drive a car. She behaves loudly and badly, displaying zero awareness when it comes to acceptable social behavior. McCarthy does this stuff "well," I suppose you could say. Certainly, she sells every obnoxious line, every bizarre dance move, every head-slam and accident. But it's all so damn jarring. I don't necessarily expect people in comedies to act believably, but McCarthy's antics are so out of control the reality of every sequence is shattered when she goes to work on it.
In any case, TAMMY doesn't have much of a plot; it's more of an excuse for a road trip scenario: Tammy has just crashed her car, been fired from her fast food job (of course she stuffs cheeseburgers in her pockets before storming off), and been cheated on by her husband (Nat Faxon). Traumatized, she decides to get in the car and drive off, to no place in particular. But having no car, she's forced to take her grandmother's (Susan Sarandon), who is desperate to leave her daughter's (Allison Janney) house. And that's about it, really. Just two people deciding to drive off somewhere. At one point they get arrested. They bicker a lot, but they also share some tender moments and avert a few tragedies.
TAMMY is the kind of comedy that is full-bore R-rated silliness for most of its running time, but then gets unexpectedly sad when you least expect it; this makes it feel disingenuous more than anything else. The movie also pulls a turnaround toward the end with Tammy herself, as she's suddenly tidying herself up and acting like a normal human being. That such a transformation would occur in such a short amount of time is questionable, but it's also a dishonest move on the film's part: we were asked to love Tammy for who she was, and now she's changing for "the better"?
The movie is made tolerable by a series of enjoyable supporting performances, starting with Sarandon, as the boozy, borderline-crazy grandmother who causes just as much of a scene wherever she goes as Tammy does. Sarandon ably steals the show from McCarthy and has a handful of memorable moments - even if the character is a rather basic "mouthy old lady" caricature that has been employed by countless comedies. Kathy Bates has a good turn as Sarandon's cousin, a lesbian with a penchant for blowing things up. Gary Cole and Mark Duplass (of all people) turn up in likable small parts as Tammy and her grandmother's prospective love interests, respectively.
I can't, for whatever reason, help but feel slightly bad for McCarthy as I watch her flail about the screen. It's odd that McCarthy and Falcone, having this powerful opportunity to give her a starring vehicle, have chosen so many lowbrow jokes that often feel like low blows to the comedienne. Why now showcase another aspect of her personality as opposed to the one we've already seen three or four times already? And why does she keep playing into this version of herself when it's so uncomplimentary?