Big Screen Streaming: Tammy

Big Screen Streaming: Tammy

-Film Review by Roger Market

Tammy (now in theaters ) is a bit of a mixed bag. In some ways, it’s exactly what one would expect based on its initial trailer: 90 minutes of yet another zany Melissa McCarthy character going out of her way to be extreme. The trailer previews her titular character holding up a fast food restaurant with a bag over her head, revealing her insatiable and comedic appetite for pies and money. Truth be told, this character type may be getting tiresome for some viewers, but what the film’s trailer doesn’t show, and what this reviewer was pleased to see enacted in the movie, is that Tammy has a lot of heart. There’s actually a good, emotional, character-driven reason behind that melodramatic robbery scene.

At its core, Tammy is a road trip comedy about a cautious but shortsighted woman who is too afraid to take any real action to improve her life. Tammy’s limitation is that she doesn’t feel she deserves a positive change. On the contrary, she seems to attract bad luck. In the opening sequence, Tammy hits a deer with her car. “Not another one!” she exclaims. She then makes a scene after being fired from her fast food job, leaves her husband after finding out he’s cheating on her, and later convinces her grandmother (Pearl, played by Susan Sarandon) to accompany her on a much-needed road trip to Niagara Falls. They take Pearl’s car, of course, since Tammy’s is out of commission.

The rest of the movie, at least until the third and final act, takes place on the road. Tammy and Pearl get themselves (and their car) into one tight spot after another. Hilarity ensues, depending on one’s definition of hilarity. Much of the movie’s comedy can be described as slapstick and crass. That’s the genre, and for the most part, the actors and dialogue deliver on this expectation. For example, moments before Tammy attempts to snag herself a man, she declares that men are attracted to her “like flies on shit.” Later, she realizes that Pearl’s version (“like bees to honey”) is a more pleasant image. McCarthy fans may think they know what this dialogue sounds like coming out of her mouth; they’d be right, but maybe that’s not so bad. Tammy looks, sounds, and acts like the prototypical McCarthy character. There’s nothing wrong with branding, right?

The subplots take the film to another level. Although the romance between Tammy and Bobby (played by Mark Duplass) is expected, that story line still surprises audiences. The chemistry between the two isn’t exactly off the charts, but for the patient viewer, it works. Another subplot explores Tammy’s relationship with her outspoken and diabetic grandmother. That infamous robbery scene takes place after Tammy and Pearl have landed themselves in jail. Pearl has enough money to bail Tammy out but not herself. Here’s the kicker: Pearl has forgotten her medicine, and before Tammy leaves the jail cell, she notices that Pearl’s feet are beginning to swell. Afraid for Pearl’s life, Tammy has limited options, and she’s too reckless to think everything through. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you can guess the rest. Be prepared for a riotous, roller-coaster-ride hysterical mess! Both of these subplots are connected throughout, and this emotional triangle of Tammy, Pearl, and Bobby is what leads the movie to its fitting conclusion.

Unfortunately, the McCarthy-Sarandon dynamic is somewhat overpowered by a laundry list of A-list actors whose presence, although appreciated, is largely unnecessary. Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Akroyd, Gary Cole, Toni Collette, and Sandra Oh each pop up at one point or another, even if only for a few minutes. In fact, Toni Collette barely has any lines at all, and most of them don’t happen until the credits scroll (yes, there is content during the credits of this movie). Considering the amount of screen time these relatively minor characters get, perhaps a lighter touch would have been more prudent for the cast list—not to mention the budget, which is relatively small, miraculously.

Despite its somewhat derivative style, the bottom line is that Tammy is a surprisingly heartfelt comedy. Tactless, of course, but earnest. To compare, viewers who loved The Heat, McCarthy’s hit comedy from last summer (co-starring Sandra Bollock), may like Tammy but will probably feel that The Heat was a bit classier. Those viewers may be better served by the upcoming St. Vincent, which premiers in October and stars McCarthy in a more normal, down-to-earth role, as well as Naomi Watts and Bill Murray. The film looks promising. Until then, there’s always matinee pricing for Tammy. This reviewer would see it again for cheap.


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