Despite having conquered Hollywood on her own terms, Melissa McCarthy is slowly becoming Tinsel Town’s newest punch line – her bombastic performance style no longer suits the deflated material she has been working on lately. The movie drones from one cliché to the next, and has one particularly strange and unconvincing performance that makes the whole thing implode in on itself. This is not a road trip I would like to be on.
Tammy is having a really, really hard time – she’s lost her job and discovered her husband has been cheating on her. Without a car or money, she enlists the help of her hard-drinking and promiscuous grandmother, Pearl, and the two set off on a road trip.
Whether casting Susan Sarandon in Tammy was a facetious nod to Thelma & Louise or not, it’s difficult to not think about how road films and Sarandon go together. Unfortunately, the comparison is like night and day and despite Tammy having its moments, it really is easy comedy that relies too much on character-actress drivel. McCarthy is a naturally funny person but don’t expect this film to stay with you long after leaving the theatre.
The Bottom Line
Using an earthy, uncouth character to puncture pretension is a time-honoured comedy tradition, and sometimes it feels like Tammy wants to be a version of Roseanne. But Roseanne never inspired pity the way Tammy does when, for instance, she’s forced by her horny grandmother to sleep outside their motel room, gnawing on a powdered donut next to a raccoon. That’s not the only scene that’s played for laughs but just feels surreal, uncanny and sad.
The trailers for Tammy don’t reveal much about the story, as it turns out because there isn’t much to reveal. Tammy is a road trip movie about getting stuck, so those sassy quips while driving come early and not often enough. The trailer leans heavily on one scene — a fast-food robbery — possibly the funniest part of a movie that doesn’t want to admit it really isn’t a comedy because there isn’t much funny about McCarthy’s title character, a woman of questionable mental faculties without the moron charm. In rapid succession Tammy loses her car to a colliding deer, her job to good sense, and her husband to another woman. A road trip to Niagara Falls with her alcoholic grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) results, with complications not worth going into.
Instead of an empowering working-class heroine, Tammy comes off as a cynical, condescending creation, which is especially disappointing considering McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone, wrote the film together. Following her raunchy performance in Bridesmaids, McCarthy seemed destined to break as many Hollywood precedents as possible but now she feels stuck in a lowbrow rut of flat doppelganger, performances that slowly ripple away in less convincing succession. Romantic humiliation is not something the audience who love her, want to see her in constantly. It’s also worth mentioning the odd choice of casting Susan Sarandon as an unconvincing 80 year old woman with a dowdy grey wig and a little latex not concealing a still-vibrant person underneath. Much of the humour relies on Sarandon’s dynamism with McCarthy but it’s never convincing from the start and neutralises much of the comedy.
Kathy Bates plays Pearl’s caricature lesbian cousin who, at the end of this overlong 96-minute movie, tells Tammy “I got a news flash for you: Life isn’t fair!” That is indeed the moral of this film which subsequently sums up its sagging and exhausted nature.