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by Peter Sobczynski

"Is There A Doctor Or Bachelor In The House?"
1 stars

It should probably be noted right up front that the new comedy "Tammy" has nothing to do with the quartet of films (and a television series) running from 1957-1967 that followed a simple country girl (played in succession by Debbie Reynolds, Sandra Dee and Debbie Watson) who was always looking for love and who always found it in the final reel in the arms of such blandly handsome character actors as Leslie Nielsen and a pre-hippie Peter Fonda. It should also probably be noted that "Tammy" has precious little to do with anything that you or I might consider to be humorous. This star vehicle for Melissa McCarthy is a ugly, ungainly and desperately unfunny mess that is all the more embarrassing since she produced and co-wrote the project with husband Ben Falcone (who also directed) and presumably knew what she was getting into, though that hardly begins to explain how she was able to lure in such a strong cast with a script flimsier than one of those "SNL" skits that she does that inevitably ends with her drinking a quart of salad dressing or something equally stupid.

McCarthy plays Tammy, a brash, loud and obnoxious woman of the sort that most right-minded people would cross the street--hell, cross state borders--in order to avoid even the slightest degree of contact. Over the course of one long day, Tammy manages to lose her car by hitting a deer while rummaging for Chap-Stick, her job at a fast-food restaurant (she responds by licking all the available food) and her unaccountably mild-mannered husband (Nat Faxon) to another woman (Toni Collette). At the end of her rope, Tammy decides to blow her small Illinois town to make a fresh start--not the first time she has threatened this--but lacks both the funds and the transportation to do so. Both magically arrive in the form of her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon. . . yes, Susan Sarandon) who agrees to let Tammy use both her $6,000 bankroll and her Buick and the condition that she gets to go along for the ride. Reluctantly, Tammy agrees and the two set off on a road trip, ostensibly to Niagara Falls at Pearl's behest.

Of course, if they just followed the map to their destination without any incidents, there wouldn't be much of a movie (not that there is much of one as is) and so the two wind up getting into a whole bunch of crazy scrapes and mix-em-ups along the way. While visiting a lake, Tammy trashes a jet-ski and winds up dragging it around for the majority of their journey. At a barbecue joint, Pearl gets picked up by the randy Earl (Gary Cole) while his nice-guy son Bobby (Mark Duplass) finds himself fending off Tammy's advances. After a scrape in a liquor store, Pearl is arrested for carrying OxyContin without a prescription (don't worry--it is only to kill the pain from her diabetes) and with no money for bail, Tammy robs another take-out joint for the funds in a spectacularly incompetent manner. (Don't worry--she gives it back.) Finally, they wind up at the palatial lakeside home of Pearl's cousin (Kathy Bates) and her lover (Sandra Oh) in time for a lesbian Fourth of July party in which Roman candles and such are not the only fireworks on display.

While I must confess that I have not been much of a fan of McCarthy's previous film work--"Identity Thief" and "The Heat" were both atrocious and I did not particularly care for "Bridesmaids" either--I like the idea that an actress like her can come along to challenge most preconceptions of how a female movie star is supposed to look and behave and become a hugely popular star in the process. I also like the idea of a film that attempts to work as both a broad (in several senses of the word) slapstick comedy and as a character-driven piece showing our heroine trying to accept responsibility for her own mistakes and lapses in judgement in order to finally move on with her life. Alas, ambition and good intentions add up to very little if the filmmakers are unable to do anything of interest with them and this is why "Tammy" fails so spectacularly. For starters, Tammy is so resoundingly unlikable right from the start--mean, self-pitying, crude and stupid in equal measures--that she feels less like a comedic concept than a case study and it is almost impossible to work up any real sense of affection for her, especially later in the game when we are supposed to look upon her with more sympathy. Take the early scene in which she hits the deer and tries to revive it. Now there may be a way to wring laughs out of hitting a deer with a car (actually, David Lynch managed to do just that in "The Straight Story") but Tammy acts like such a buffoon that she just comes across like an idiot and since this scene comes right at the start of the film, it establishes her character in a way that the subsequent events are unable to shake.

That may be the biggest problem with "Tammy" but it is hardly the only one. The troubled and tricky relationship between Tammy and Pearl is unconvincing because you never get a sense that these are people with any sort of shared history together--in virtually every scene, they come across like two people meeting for the very first time. While I understand that the basic format for a road movie allows for a certain degree of detours and digressions, the screenplay that McCarthy & Falcone have cooked is remarkably unpropulsive from a dramatic standpoint--there are times when entire scenes appear to be missing and other points where big dramatic moments are so poorly established that they fail to have any of their intended impact. From a directorial standpoint, Falcone's work is flat and dull throughout and he has a tendency to let scenes (especially the centerpiece robbery sequence) run on far too long for their own good. Like too many comedies these days, it appears that he has encouraged his actors to improvise without providing them with an inspired premise to work from in the first place. Put it this way--this is not a Judd Apatow production but from the looks of it, it could have been. (Actually, it was produced by Will Ferrell, whose own films have suffered from the same malady of overgenerousness.)

As she usually does, McCarthy throws herself completely into the role of Tammy but not even the full force of her personality can overcome the fact that her character is thinly conceived and not particularly interesting at any point--in a desperate attempt to make up for that, the film has plenty of scenes in which other characters tell her (and us) what a special person she is despite her flaws. At least she seems right for the part, which is more than one can say about the spectacularly bizarre miscasting of Susan Sarandon as her grandmother. While I assume that Sarandon was cast to serve as a reminder of another film of hers that found a couple of rebellious women on a road trip--no, not "The Banger Sisters"--the problem is that Sarandon is only 23 years older than McCarthy (and looks at least a decade younger than her actual age) and merely plopping a grey wig on her head (one so unconvincing that it must have come via Clint Eastwood's makeup crew) does very little to create the illusion that she is older. Then again, even the most convincing makeup job available would not be able to overcome the depressing fact that she and McCarthy just don't click particularly well in their scenes together and as a result, neither the wackiness nor the emotional payoffs come to much of anything. As for the other members of the surprisingly deep cast (besides those mentioned above, Allison Janney and Dan Aykroyd turn up as Tammy's parents), their presence suggests just how greatly McCarthy is admired by her peers and it in unfortunate that she and Falcone couldn't reciprocate by giving them actual parts to play.

The best thing about "Tammy" is that it is at least a little better than either "Identity Thief" or "The Heat," two truly rotten films that she presumably took on to build on her "Bridesmaids" success and which became hits almost entirely because of her presence--of course, one would have to try awfully hard to make something that was worse than either of those rancid gumdrops. By comparison, this one does try a little harder and the notion of an entirely female-driven comedy is undeniably appealing but it is just stridently unfunny from start to finish. McCarthy's popularity will ensure that people flock to see it during its opening weekend--if she could draw people to "Identity Thief," she can presumably draw them into anything--but my guess is that once the film starts and they discover just what a sour mishmash it really is, theaters will grow so silent that yes, they will be able to hear the cottonwoods whisperin.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25899&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/01/14 20:37:20
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User Comments

9/22/15 mr.mike Repeats some gags one too many times but is an ok rental. 3 stars
8/19/14 christine sarkauskas I had higher expectations of this movie. Although it had some funny lines or parts 3 stars
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  02-Jul-2014 (R)
  DVD: 11-Nov-2014


  DVD: 11-Nov-2014

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