Two-and-a-half out of five stars
Tammy’s a Midwest girl with lots of shortcomings, and she’s not having a good day. She accidentally hits a deer with her car, gets fired from her job at Topper Jacks, a fast food restaurant, then catches her husband (Nat Faxon) cheating on her with their neighbor (Toni Collette). How does she deal? A road trip with her boy-crazy, alcoholic grandmother, Pearl, played by Susan Sarandon, who has her own set of issues.
While Tammy can’t seem to do anything right, the situation goes from bad to worse when Pearl winds up in jail. Tammy believes the only way to bail out her grandmother is to rob a Topper Jacks –- which probably would’ve been funnier had I not seen it in the movie’s trailer and commercials. Also detracting from the moment: the preceding scene featuring a clichéd set-up involving Tammy preparing to knock over the restaurant.
You want to root for Tammy before you even step through the theater doors, simply because it’s Melissa McCarthy. Some of you have grown tired of McCarthy’s act but for every person I meet who tells me they’re starting to find her characters annoying, I meet two who think she’s the greatest. McCarthy has become one of Hollywood’s top female box office draws, and deservedly so. When I read she was co-writing a movie with husband Ben Falcone, who would also be directing, I thought, for sure, this was going to be one of the year’s better comedies. Was I right?
On paper, it seems like a winning dynamic. On celluloid, hardly.
Sarandon does her best but Pearl is impossible to like. Her barbs toward Tammy are worth a polite smile but her irrepressible disdain for life and love of alcohol undermine the comedy. McCarthy and Falcone are gifted comedians, so there are funny moments, and McCarthy does give us her most nuanced and layered performance to date, but she also falls victim to her own writing. She and Falcone over-thought this script, putting Tammy and company into over-the-top, far-fetched situations with characters that just don’t ring true. I get the feeling they didn’t trust their instincts. Gifted comedians, yes. Gifted filmmakers? Not so much.
Turns out, I was wrong: "Tammy" is definitely not one of the year’s better comedies.