Tammy (2014)

I can’t recall ever watching a movie in a theater whose crowd was as dead as the one for Tammy. I don’t often do a “crowd report,” but for some comedies I feel as if that’s necessary, because some people think I have terrible taste in comedies. (Those people include me, by the way; I know that my comedic taste doesn’t mesh with that of a lot of people.) But trust me when I say that Tammy is awful and unfunny, and it’s not just me who thinks so.

The film opens with Tammy (Melissa McCarthy, who was also a writer and producer; this is her, and her husband/director’s, project) having a really bad day. She’s been fired from her job, her car’s broken down, she was hit by a deer, and she learned that her husband (Nat Faxon) is cheating on her with the neighbor lady (Toni Collette). She heads to her mother’s house, asking for the car, and winds up on a road trip with her pill-addicted grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon). Yes, Sarandon is playing McCarthy’s grandmother. No, it’s not believable. “It’s a comedy; it doesn’t have to be believable.” You keep telling yourself that.

The film looks like it’s going to be a road movie. It’s really not, though. There are a few stops, but it doesn’t take a typical road movie turn. In fact, after a couple of stops — and a robbery, which is perhaps the film’s only true “funny” part — they burn their car and go to live with Lenore and Susanne (Kathy Bates and Sandra Oh), basically just so Kathy Bates can deliver a life-changing speech about growing up. This would be a more poignant scene if it wasn’t the only such scene in the movie, both before and after.

It’s a scene that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t actually seem to change a whole lot. Tammy begins the film as a rude, cranky, and not particularly good person, even though there are shades of someone nicer hidden within. After the talk, she’s … basically just the same person, only with a slightly larger inclination to accept that a man named Bobby (Mark Duplass) has a crush on her, and that she might like him back.

But he liked her before the heart-to-heart, and continues to do so after. She treats him exactly the same. There isn’t any character growth despite this “turning point” moment. There isn’t much “character” to speak of in the entirety of the film. Most of it involves Melissa McCarthy ad-libbing insults and knocking things off shelves, the latter of which wasn’t funny the first time it happened, and certainly wasn’t funny after it happened seven times.

Those two things are where most of the “jokes” come from, by the way. So much of the film feels ad-libbed, and while ad-libbing can be funny, if you can tell that it’s happening, it’s less likely to be successful. And McCarthy constantly insulting everyone just isn’t enjoyable or humorous. I’m sorry, but it isn’t. And the running gag involving her knocking things off shelves? I don’t get it. Most people in the audience didn’t find it funny, either.

There are a couple of scenes in which McCarthy and Sarandon show strong chemistry, or even get a couple of powerful quiet scenes. Or, they would be powerful if anything in the film mattered. But the instances where this occurs are far too spread out to have much of an impact. And, since none of the scenes in the film matter after they’ve played out — there is no character growth or depth to speak of — it lessens their impact even further. I suppose you can look at individual scenes out of context and think they’re moderately effective, and you’d be right. That doesn’t really work for a film — not to mention a comedy — but there are glimpses of success, and that’s … something, I guess.

Look, Tammy exists because a studio trusted a script written by husband-wife duo Ben Falcone (also director) and Melissa McCarthy (also star and producer). They were given free rein to make a movie, and this is what they made. Sometimes these risks pay off, and you get something truly special. Sometimes they’re terrible and these people will never be given carte blanche again. Tammy is likely to result in the latter, unless of course it makes money, because at that point quality doesn’t matter.

I’m still not sold on Melissa McCarthy as a leading actor. Her shtick — and that’s all it is — works best in supporting roles. Here, she winds up overstaying her welcome and shows a lack of diversity to her repertoire. Susan Sarandon does nothing of interest in the secondary role. In fact, apart from that one speech from Kathy Bates, nobody in a supporting role gets to do much.

Tammy is an awful comedy, a terrible movie, and a reminder that allowing actor’s free rein over projects can sometimes result in atrocities. It often works, I’ll admit, but this isn’t one of those times. Tammy is unfunny, has absolutely nothing going in its favor, and doesn’t justify even a quarter of its 90+ minute running time. I laughed maybe three times. Most of the audience was just as dead, if not more so. It’s not just me this time. This is a boring and unfunny movie which gives you no reason to watch it. Please, don’t go to see Tammy.

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