Tammy (2014)

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Melissa McCarthy has become one of the most bankable leading ladies in movies today, and she is no longer a supporting funny lady, but instead a full-on, intense comedic force. Her film, Tammy, was a passion project for McCarthy – she and her husband, Ben Falcone, came up with the idea for the film and wrote it and produced it together, with Falcone directing it, and with all passion projects, there is a huge risk of failure. Unfortunately, while it was not terrible, Tammy could have been a lot better.

I have to praise McCarthy – she is paid very well for her work in movies, and unlike many other actresses who receive the same salaries, McCarthy really earns that money. She is willing to do absolutely anything – I’ve mentioned this before. She exhibits a very rare quality in today’s comedic performers, retaining her natural instinct for physical comedy. She can undoubtedly credit her success and popularity to her brilliant comedic timing and willingness to do anything for a laugh. Tammy is no different – McCarthy creates a crass, vulgar but very endearing character, and she falls, makes herself dirty and dances like no one is watching. Tammy is traditional McCarthy fare – she is funny, vulgar and says and does absolutely anything – it was that same formula that got her an Academy Award nomination, so it must be worthwhile. Just a warning – if you don’t like McCarthy’s shtick or find her irritating, you’re not going to find Tammy being a revelation that will change your mind.

I feel like casting was a huge problem in this film – it has a great cast, but there are so many flaws with it. Susan Sarandon plays McCarthy’s grandmother, despite only being 24 years older than her fictional granddaughter in real life. Sarandon gives a very funny and honest performance, but the fact is that it is very distracting to consider Sarandon and McCarthy being two generations apart. The rest of the cast is pretty much wasted – Kathy Bates is wonderful in everything she does, and as Lenore, she gets a few small and memorable moments, but with the exception of a short monologue, she is pretty much wasted. Dan Aykroyd is billed quite prominently in the opening credits, but only appears in the last ten minutes of the film. It was wonderful to see him in a film (The Blues Brothers is one of the all-time favorite movies), but he was also disposable here. Toni Collette and Allison Janney, both prominent character actresses – did basically nothing other than react to McCarthy and Sarandon. It was one of the best casts of the year, and also probably the most wasted. It is not that McCarthy and Sarandon were so dreadful they needed others to distract from them, but rather the fact that if you get Kathy Bates, Dan Aykroyd, Sandra Oh or Allison Janney, you could probably use them better than the way Falcone did here. They honestly deserve better.

Tammy doesn’t know what it wants to be. It could’ve been a sweet and wonderful road trip comedy that showed McCarthy and Sarandon’s characters bonding and growing closer. It seemed to be that way – with only a thin premise of them travelling to Niagara Falls, it was ripe for some serious character development between the two. It wasn’t too bad either in that regard. Then it all came apart when they thought to include a romantic love interest for Tammy. Sure, Tammy just got out of a bad marriage, but that doesn’t mean the film had to pander to the lowest level of romantic comedy cliche ever. It should’ve stuck to its guns and been about McCarthy and Sarandon escaping their dreary town and dreadful, pointless lives. The romantic sub-plot was actually too much, and took away a lot of the charms of this movie. It messed up the entire tone of the movie, because it wasn’t quite sure if it wanted soft, sensitive McCarthy that we see on Mike and Molly, or the vulgar, hilarious McCarthy we see in movies. Tammy, as a character, could have been a lot more solid, but poor writing and unneeded off-tone moments ruined her character, and we started to become confused as to who Tammy actually is. If they wanted to make this a romantic comedy, they should’ve done so in a more straightforward manner. But simply sticking a tacky romantic story onto the movie is just not riveting cinema. It distracts from the core story, which could’ve made this film into a sweet and lovely story about a lady and her grandmother on the lam from life (and later the law) – and the fact that the film had Susan Sarandon, the star of one of the greatest female movies of all time, which also happens to be a road-trip movie, Thelma and Louise, makes this seem like a wasted opportunity.

I honestly don’t know what to think of Tammy. I laughed a lot. It was very funny, and I find Melissa McCarthy absolutely charming and wonderfully talented. I just felt very underwhelmed with it – it seemed to want to be one thing, but also to be another thing and something else as well – it didn’t actually stick to one story, and if it had, it would’ve been a far better movie. But we got what we got, and while it wasn’t terrible, it was disappointing, because it could’ve been so much better. It is still very entertaining though.

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