Maybe next time, McCarthy. I believe in you. Tammy (2014)

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Melissa McCarthy’s latest comedic opus Tammy is like a crass redneck cousin to Barbra Streisand’s/Seth Rogen’s similarly themed The Guilt Trip. That may seem like a slam. It’s not. I enjoyed both movies, flawed though they are, particularly given that exceptional performers can sell the thinnest of scripts.

Where McCarthy stumbles a bit more, however, is that she helped write the slight script for her starrer. Ouch.

What other movies are in Tammy‘s DNA? If Nebraska and McCarthy’s own Identity Thief had a cinematic baby, it wouldn’t be that far afield from Tammy, which depicts a shaggy dog heroine (McCarthy, natch) on the lam with her bewigged and besotted (as in drunk) granny (Susan Sarandon!). Heck, throw in a touch of Sarandon’s own twenty-five-year-old summer blockbuster Thelma and Louise for good measure.

Tammy’s life is a mess. She nearly totals her jalopy when she hits a deer on the way to her crappy fast food job. (In one of the movie’s more touching moments, Tammy lays down on the highway, gets face-to-snout with the deer, and talks the little fellow back into sprightly, white-tailed-scampering-across-a-field life. I liked that part. A lot.)

Tammy gets fired from said crappy job for being late (because of the deer miracle), throws ketchup packets at her now-erstwhile boss (McCarthy’s real-life husband and the film’s director Ben Falcone), comes home early to discover her hubby (a suitably golf-caddy skeezy Nat Faxon) serving a romantic dinner to her neighbor (Toni Collette, wasted here), and runs home (two doors down) to her mother (Allison Janney, dependably ringing gold from nothing).

Sarandon’s character, who lives in Tammy’s mom’s spare bedroom, already has a suitcase packed and can’t wait to provide the ancient Cadillac and limited funds ($6700) necessary for her and her granddaughter to skedaddle from small-town life and go see the spectacle that is Niagara Falls.

Just like The Guilt Trip (where Streisand’s character wanted nothing more than to see the Grand Canyon), all manner of comic disruptions keep Sarandon’s and McCarthy’s characters from their destination. Like Rogen and Streisand, Sarandon and McCarthy also end up in a barbecue restaurant where Sarandon meets cute with a potential beau (Gary Cole, playing it rather subtle for once). Unlike The Guilt Trip, Tammy heads in a decidedly cruder direction, involving Cole and Sarandon and the backseat of that decrepit Cadillac. Ewww.

(The fact that I’m giving point/counterpoint between two failed comedies released within 18 months of each other is indicative of two things: 1) my relative lack of taste and 2) the fact that Hollywood really has no new ideas. It could be worse. I could be reviewing Transformers.)

Tammy is entertaining. I laughed heartily at McCarthy’s antics (just as I did during The Heat or Bridesmaids). I also found myself moved by her ability to telegraph so pointedly the hurt of someone who lives on the margins, either by choice or happenstance. McCarthy can inhabit a character like no other. Problem is it’s the same character, and, while I like and can relate to this person she plays (and her penchant for wearing Crocs), I’d like to meet someone else … soon.

Sarandon is a hoot, particularly in her early scenes, also offering us a caustic comic portrait of someone who refuses to be consigned to the periphery. Her performance is derailed mostly by the script,which turns her into a Golden Girls sexpot for no discernible reason at the midway point.

Kathy Bates sparkles as Sarandon’s pet food store magnate/lesbian cousin (yeah, it’s that kind of movie) who lives in one of those beachfront homes that only exist in Hollywoodland. She gives Tammy and her grandma a warm meal, a roof over the heads, and one fabulous July 4th wingding. Despite the improbability of Bates’ surroundings, she grounds the movie just as it seems likely to run right off the rails, as Bates beautifully walks that fine line between satire and heartache that has been her specialty since Misery.

Mark Duplass (Zero Dark Thirty) is also a source of warmth as Tammy’s suitor Bobby, cursed as he is to babysit his philandering father (Cole). The quiet scenes between McCarthy and Duplass are when the film is at its finest (not unlike those charming moments between Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd in the aforementioned Bridesmaids). All the cartoonish chaos stops for a moment, and two believably broken souls connect as kindred spirits.

That is the movie I hoped to see tonight. Maybe next time, McCarthy. I believe in you.

[NOTE: I’ve been suffering from a wicked cold this entire holiday weekend, and this movie was viewed as a late-afternoon matinee while I was all hopped up on DayQuil. Take all preceding advice with a huge grain of salt.]

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Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view. In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

22 thoughts on “Maybe next time, McCarthy. I believe in you. Tammy (2014)

  1. Not planning to see it, but glad to know there is a more human touch there than what has been presented in the trailers and general advertising.

  2. In a time of political correctness the producers of this movie has managed to insult every women in the world named Tammy. The movie should be renamed or just destroyed. Maybe a class action for defamation is in order!
    I now wish I had the name Lucy!

  3. ah, you had me at the deer miracle…HALLELUJAH!!!! may that moment resonate with a gajillion people! and I love that bigger pic of you advising us to” click after the jump” whatever the f^&% that means? over to the right? is that new? signed: mama!

    • Yeah, that was definitely my favorite moment in the movie. And, yes, that picture has been in the gallery over to the right for a while. It just changes every time someone clicks on the site. And if you click the picture, you see the picture bigger, as well as a link to whatever blog entry contains said picture. It’s a good thing I don’t write instruction manuals, because I have no idea what I just typed

      >

  4. just got back from seeing this with aussie daughter and i had high hopes that were dashed early on in this film. i loved the deer scene and what happened with her car and the firing, and after those seven minutes, everything after that went downhill on a speeding bus for me. as soon as i saw sarandon, i realized i couldn’t believe her in that role, she was just too young looking to be believable, and the other big names were horribly wasted too in my opinion. i think you’re right, they should not have written and directed their own film, and just stuck with the acting as the casting seemed to be a display of her hollywood clout at this point in her career. disjointed and disappointing in my opinion, with a few funny moments scattered throughout. )

    • Disjointed and disappointing is a great way to describe it, Beth. Sounds like I enjoyed it a little more than you did. But that we both agree it was disappointing, and needed a third-party to help them edit out the stuff to just wasn’t working very well. Oh well. Better luck next time!

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    • It’s not a bad movie, though not a very good one either. Definitely uneven, and likely more of a victim of heightened expectations. If it’d been a dumb, small, silly comedy that came out in February or April as opposed to the July 4 holiday, people might not have had such high expectations. It is definitely derivative, but it has more than its fair share of charming moments.

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