With Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Mark Duplass, Gary Cole. Written by Melissa McCarthy & Ben Falcone. Directed by Ben Falcone. Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language. 91 minutes.
It seems even Melissa McCarthy is beginning to get that her shtick has gotten old. How many times can you play the same vulgar and aggressively stupid character before the audience moves on? She’s doing it again in TAMMY, and you will either find her crude behavior hilarious or you will actually possess a sense of humor. This time, as insurance, she has surrounded herself with a talented cast.
McCarthy, who produced and co-wrote the script with her husband, director Ben Falcone, sticks to the formula: her character is slovenly, selfish, and moronic for nearly the whole film and then is redeemed in the last act. This time she is the title character who is fired from a fast food restaurant (managed by Falcone) for being habitually late. She has an excuse. She hit a deer with her car when she was reaching into the back seat. When she is kicked out of the restaurant, she exits by throwing ketchup packets at the manager and then touching all the food in the kitchen so it can’t be sold. It’s exactly as disgusting as that sounds.
She comes home to find out her husband (Nat Faxon) has taken up with a neighbor (Toni Collette). So she storms out to her parents’ house where she demands car keys from her mother (Alison Janney). When mom refuses she finds herself hitting the road with her alcoholic grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon). The bulk of the movie is their road trip where they see who can be more irresponsible. Pearl encourages Tammy to drink while driving and buys beer for kids at a convenience store. When they are arrested and there’s not enough bail money for both Tammy gets out and commits a robbery.
They also meet guys on the road–because Tammy believes herself to be irresistible to men–but it’s grandma who ends up having sex with Earl (Gary Cole) while his son Bobby (Mark Duplass) slowly falls in love with Tammy. It all leads up to what is described as a “lesbian Fourth of July party,” the very concept of which we’re supposed to think is amusing. It’s not clear why. Do people think lesbian women don’t entertain or is it the celebration of the Fourth that’s supposed to be strange? The only good thing about this is that it brings in Kathy Bates and Sandra Oh who are so much better than the movie they’re in you wish they could be removed from it and get their own story.
Like Seth McFarlane in the summer bomb “A Million Ways To Die In The West,” the theory was a strong cast will make audiences think it’s a good movie in spite of the one-note performance by the lead. However, Janney and Collette appear so briefly you wonder why they took the parts, and Dan Aykroyd’s late arrival as Tammy’s father makes one long for the era of the first-gen “Saturday Night Live” he graced. As for Sarandon’s low comedy turn here, it’s nearly as embarrassing as watching Al Pacino in the Adam Sandler disaster “Jack And Jill.”
In the end, the responsibility for this not-terribly-funny comedy falls on McCarthy and Falcone. For those who think McCarthy is a great talent, the failure of “Tammy” might be the wake-up call she needs. If it’s a hit, she will go right on like her characters, totally oblivious to the rest of the world. File “Tammy” under “the law of diminishing returns.”•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.