There was much riding on Melissa McCarthy’s new comedy as she has quickly become a force to be reckoned with. With a gradual rise up the comedic ladder, she has shown to be the hottest comedy star out today. Her having top billing wasn’t much of a risk, but having written the movie with her husband who also directed is a huge gamble. Passion projects tend to get lost in the creative shuffle and are more or less not as good as the artists think. By having total control of their product, they take the full brush of its success and failure. Unfortunately it heavily lies in the latter section as it underperforms in nearly every way where it is never as funny as it intends to be, leaving the poignancy and drama of the story not as effective as expected.
Truthfully this just was not a funny movie, only mildly funny. It just falls way too short and too often to have a consistent flow. The jokes felt way too forced most of the time and overlong. It tried too hard to get a laugh and I could not remember one time where I had an uproarious laugh from a joke or gag. A few chuckles here and there but not one big laugh was had by me. I tend to laugh at the stupidest stuff but this felt stupid on an entirely different level. The crowd in the theater would highly disagree with me as they laughed pretty consistently throughout the movie. It also didn’t help that all of the more effective jokes were in the trailers. Like most movies, it ruins the fun before you ever even get there. So when I did see it, it kind of felt like being thrown underhand pitches as if I were Babe Ruth; an easy set up where minimal effort was applied to make a good joke. It all felt way too set up and rudimentary to be taken as a straight up wacky comedy.
Having it set up as an indie style drama the other half of the time also didn’t do it much favors. It just didn’t mesh well at all, it went too quickly from one to the next where it got hard for you to care and laugh for one or the other. At times I felt like I was watching another movie as everything fell out of place. With the material given, it doesn’t make it easy for you to root for them in the more dramatic moments. It got hard to care when it makes you laugh so little and infrequently. A movie like this could have worked if it only knew what it wanted to be, coming of age drama or ridiculous comedy. It can’t have it both ways to such extremes and expect success. I’ve seen those types of movies a hundred times using comedy with drama and most of them have done it better with less fanfare, budget or big summer weekend spot. Although at times, the more emotional moments were more effective overall than any of the comedic spots. Not by much but just enough.
Melissa McCarthy is a good actress who I like. With comedic cinema more of a man’s game today, it’s always comforting to see a women laugh it up. She has a great willingness to go all out for a joke, but too often she threw everything in, not taking it back when she should have. The irresponsible slob has been done many times before, but it only works when the protagonist is likable enough that you want them to overcome and succeed. That usually overtakes whatever problems they have internally. But Tammy isn’t wholly likable, more like someone you put up with. You’re not given any real reason to like her initially when the movie starts other than that she is a free spirit with heart. The story starts off with a storm of crap raining all over her as she got fired at a burger joint, car broke down, found out husband is cheating on her with a neighbor then aimlessly leaves town for Niagara Falls with her grandma and engages in many misadventures when they get lost.
There isn’t much there to work with on a ground level and it expects you to automatically cheer for her regardless of how everything is presented. While better than Identity Theft, the character and story are similar but she is less brash here. The loud, brash, rude mold she has perfected with previous roles doesn’t translate to success like it did before. I loved her in Bridesmaids and The Heat was a great surprise but those worked because she had a good foil to go against. Sandra Bullock played the straight role perfectly and the cast of Bridesmaids was exemplary where everyone was used to their full potential. In those instances she had very good support that rounded out her performance and others as well as the movie overall. Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids played the likable straight loser where everything that went wrong did in a comedic manner while also showing great emotional depth. It’s not too crazy to think that Melissa could land a weightier comedic/dramatic role like that later down the road as she has clearly shown her potential here where it wasn’t a total loss. Given the right material she could really surprise like so many other comedic actors. She shouldn’t always have to rely on cheap gags to get laughs and box office bucks. Melissa has earned an Oscar nomination for her star making role in Bridesmaids, but it doesn’t mean you can’t branch out to do something different.
The rest of the cast was just as worthless, although Susan Sarandon proved to be quite effective as Tammy’s booze swilling, promiscuous, pill popping grandmother Pearl. It’s a role tailor made for a screen veteran who has done it all, but not even her can bring this out of the doldrums. She provided much of the emotional weight as an alcoholic, but didn’t stray that far off into old, funny and crazy. Alan Arkin did it better in Little Miss Sunshine. Susan had noticeable chemistry with Melissa but nothing too substantial. Allison Janey as Tammy’s mother was wasted. As well as Nat Faxon as Tammy’s husband and Toni Collete, the women he’s cheating with who did exactly nothing at all. Gary Cole as Earl, a would-be suitor to Pearl was rather unnoticeable. Mark Duplass while likable as Bobby was rather boring as the son to Earl and love interest to Tammy. He just seemed so plain and ordinary where nothing stood out. The romance felt a little forced and not entirely believable. I could care less whether they got together in the end. Dan Aykroyd didn’t do much as Tammy’s father but at least Kathy Bates had some fun as Lenore the cousin to Pearl, a Molotov cocktail throwing lesbian and the standard voice of reason to Tammy. The cast was good on paper but used terribly in execution. With another more accomplished director at the helm, it might have worked out better.
Ben Falcone making his directorial debut while also married to Melissa, star and co-writer really picked the wrong vehicle for a first film and passion project. Married couples making their own films don’t really lend themselves to success. It feels like the exact same ideas from both brains. There doesn’t seem to be any disparity between them. Too often they play it too safe, not willing to go all out and settle for the easy laughs. Or they are reluctant to do anything different than their fans expect. Which is a damn shame since no one should be pigeon holed by their own fans. One scene where Pearl verbally abuses Tammy while drunk was a brief diamond in the rough, showing what it could have been. I felt for her in that scene but it quickly subsides by the next scene. Another scene surprised me involving Tammy and Pearl and might have made it more interesting but alas the rug was ripped from under me. You get shown signs of potential, and then it veers off into an entirely different direction. The constant tug of war between differing ideas makes you not care. It was the same with A Million Ways To Die In The West. There was too much of one star, that being Seth McFarlane, with no clear idea how to reach a conclusion.
I was willing to give Tammy a chance despite my reluctance towards it at first glance. Then when I began to watch it, I hoped there was something worth to salvage from the wreckage. I was at least half right as it’s not great but not awful. It at least shows some depth and McCarthy goes all in, despite overdoing it. Not something one would remember initially for being awful or great but rather forgettable. To be honest this seemed like a weird choice for a summer movie on the Fourth of July weekend. It’s not as big and brazen as it paints itself out to be. People expect something more during the hot summer months. Hopefully this is something of a wakeup call for Melissa as she has to rely on something more than cheap, brash humor and be willing to take some risks that are natural for every performer of the arts. She has the chops to do something unsuspecting and great but like most things, it takes the right combination of artistic elements for it to come together. Two wild and wacky road trip misadventures out of five.