Posted July 3, 2014 by Daniel Hodgson in
Poor Tammy. First she runs her car into a deer, which makes her late for work. Then she gets fired. So she goes home early, where she catches her husband with another woman. Poor, poor Tammy.
Tammy is portrayed by Melissa McCarthy, who co-wrote the screenplay with her husband Ben Falcone, who also directed in his debut at the helm.
McCarthy was nominated for best supporting actress back in 2012 for her role in Bridesmaids. There, she portrayed no-nonsense Megan, who gave her down-on-her-luck friend Annie a needed dosage of tough-love. Now it’s McCarthy’s turn to play someone whom it seems Life just hates.
Or does it? Had Tammy kept her eyes on the road, she might have seen the deer coming and avoided it. Tammy sees herself as a victim, which she is—of herself. The point of Tammy is that Tammy’s life is in her own hands, and she deserves her fate because of her choices.
That, and because she’s an idiot. An obnoxious, impulsive, ignorant, pugnacious, klutzy, idiot. McCarthy delivers her lines somewhere between a whine and whimper. It’s humorous at first, but wears out its welcome after the first five minutes.
During those minutes, Tammy runs back to her mother’s home to borrow a car. She wants to get out of town for awhile and get away from her troubles. Her grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), wants to get out of the house as well. Tammy doesn’t want her company, but without money or a car of her own, Tammy concedes, and the pair set out on a road trip for Niagara Falls, which Pearl had always wanted to visit, but never got the chance.
Pearl is unlikable as well. It must run in the family. At one point, she locks Tammy out of their motel room for the night so she can sleep with a pickup (Gary Cole). She’s also an alcoholic, and her drinking makes her just as reckless as Tammy. They’re two of a kind, and that’s the problem with Tammy.
Road trip movies like this need a clash of personality types, with one set of values at odds with another, creating conflict within scenes to drive the story forward. Pretty basic stuff, really. Take last year’s Identity Thief, a similar road-trip buddy-comedy. One of the pair was naive, the other was conniving. Despite their differences, there was a good reason for them to travel together to a specific place. As it happens, Identity Thief starred McCarthy herself. Didn’t she learn anything about how to write one of these genre pics from her own movie?
There’s no particular reason for Tammy and Pearl to go to Niagara Falls, no stakes in going there or anywhere else; it’s arbitrary. The fatal flaw of Tammy is that it’s a movie about someone running away from something, when she needs to be running towards something or somewhere that matters.
Tammy plays like a tragedy with a comedic tone, or at least, one trying to be funny. Granddaughter and grandmother experience a blend of laughter and tears (wish I could say the same). Halfway through the running time, I realized I had wandered into a chick flick. Tammy is a prime example of why people hate chick flicks. Even chicks (sorry, I meant women, of course).