Melissa McCarthy celebrates the Fourth Of July in road trip movie Tammy! 411's Terry Lewis finds out if an unexpected winning comedy team up with Susan Sarandon delivers, or does it stray off the path too much?
Melissa McCarthy - Tammy Susan Sarandon - Pearl Allison Janney - Deb Dan Aykroyd - Don Nat Fixon - Greg Toni Collette - Missi Mark Duplass - Bobby Gary Cole - Earl Kathy Bates - Lenore Sandra Oh - Susanne Ben Falcone - Keith
Whilst we're seeing daylight at the end of the summer blockbuster season, I find it particularly pleasing that 2014 has been a rather decent year for comedy so far. Of course, I will note comedy is always subjective and we're not done yet but it's nice to get to July without a truly "meh" level humour filled picture. Whilst it's not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, Melissa McCarthy vehicle Tammy though nearly ends up being a blot on a winning year through a poor mix of clichés & clumsy pacing.
Fired from her job after turning up in a state after hitting a Deer and coming home early to find her husband is treating the next door neighbour to a cooked dinner, titular thirtysomething no hoper Tammy (McCarthy, The Heat) throws another strop but can't even get out the door of her dead end life since she has no car and no money. Her free spirited but ill grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon, The Big Wedding) has both however and the two set off on a road trip to Niagara Falls.
I'll admit, I'm a happy to admit supporter of McCarthy. Compared to other "bigger" comedy actresses who purely use their size for humour, McCarthy does so much more. She really gets into characteristics & idiosyncrasies of her roles and Tammy is one of her most relatable yet. Within five minutes of her being on screen, you know exactly what our titular anti-hero is all about - a near childlike, spoilt brat who has a response or reason to her continuing mistakes, despite not being a horrible person. The loser aspects to Tammy are quite engaging and hit close to home I would imagine for some people. There's little moments where Tammy's mother rolls her eyes and goes "Oh God, not again" which gets the character over nice and quickly. Despite the fact it's obvious her husband is on the verge of having an affair (Tammy only sees them having dinner - dinner that he made), she doesn't let him or her neighbour get a word in whilst she goes on a tantrum through her house and utterly failing at having one too. Whilst you could argue and perhaps rightly so McCarthy does her usual stock gags, I feel there is enough mileage in Tammy herself as a interesting character to get by.
Criminally under-promoted, the film's core is about Tammy's interactions with Pearl and Sarandon who is having a whale of a time as the hard drinking grandmother. Free from her diabetes tablets and her nagging daughter, Pearl eyes the trip as one last big blast and maybe just an excuse to connect with her granddaughter. Whilst the darker elements of the humour are there brewing nicely you may think, through fault of the script and not Sarandon's performance is the main perpetrator. I really don't know why there wasn't more effort made to show Sarandon's involvement in trailers since she very nearly manages to steal McCarthy's thunder. She is pure brilliance and gives it her all, not to be shown up and prove she can still hang with a younger acting generation. The rest of the cast is actually not filled with any slouches either. Dan Aykroyd (The Campaign) turns up in a brilliant advertised cameo as Tammy's dad, threatening to kill her husband & doing hand shotgun gestures at him from afar and it's always a pleasure to see Kathy Bates (American Horror Story) looking well & adding to a movie with her mere presence.
Most of the comedy comes from a rather warped take on a grandmother-granddaughter relationship. This is a road trip movie after all but it's the first time I've ever seen a g'daughter kicked out her own hotel room so her g'mother can hook up with some G.D.I.L.F. she met in some bar earlier. Whilst I would have preferred one or two more moments of warmth, seeing the lengths both will go to for each other is crazy. Pearl ends up buying Tammy a trashed jet-ski after our titular hero wrecks it, carting it around on a trailer attached to their car for the rest of the film in a neat visual gag. As a receipt Tammy ends up holding up a fast food restaurant to bail out Pearl after she's arrested, before Pearl takes Tammy to a lesbian 4th of July party with a viking funeral for said broken jet-ski. The craziness is more than welcome albeit a tad random and punctuates the ludicrous relationship the two share. Tammy and Pearl carry the film on their own two backs in a film about a reasonably well hearted person making bad decisions for our enjoyment.
What I did not like at all was that there's nothing new to shout about here. The cast and their performances aside, they barely mask the script's leaning on old clichés. Tammy goes on a journey of self recognition, tick. Tammy gets a stern talking to and grows up, tick. Tammy finds a better bloke, tick. Tammy in the credits has moved on with her life and seems better, tick. It's dot-to-dot events and there's barely a surprise. I did not even raise an eyebrow when they pulled a "Ohnoes Pearl's died" trick on the audience. Worst of all, that teaser trailer scene where our titular hero holds up a fast food restaurant? That's all in there. There's just no "Wow!" factor or anything blow away compared to anything else we've seen this year. Look, I can remember half the stupid throwaway gags from something like 22 Jump Street or Neighbors, but I'm struggling a little bit here to think of any belly up laughs from this. As I said, comedy is subjective but this did not tickle me at all and I really enjoy the cast on this.
The pacing is terrible too. The bolting out of the gates opening five to 10 minutes to give us our concept is all well and good but from there it meanders from set-piece to set-piece. Tammy stumbles about without any real purpose despite making it's goals clear enough. It's a film about Tammy sorting her life out and becoming a better person but bloody hell you would not have thought that 75 minutes into it's hour and a half run time. There are so many unmemorable gaps in that time frame, it's a let down given that it's a road movie and the whole point is to lead up to these key moments. The end is rushed with Kathy Bates' character giving Tammy a pep talk/wise-upping, straight after her grandmother embarrassed her by calling her a few horrible terms in front of a massive party. Of course, Tammy is not a saint and it is the logical choice, but there's been no build to her being told to change. I feel perhaps a rejigged ending would have gone a long way to make a better impact on her life and cause her to change. There's a reasonable opening to go a bit more darker given that we have a suffering alcoholic grandmother as one of our two main characters but que sara sara.
The 411: Despite the criminally under-promoted comedic surprise dream team of McCarthy & Sarandon just about dragging this over the line to worthwhile territory, Tammy herself does not offer anything new in a clichéd, stumbling mess. A good cast can't hide this road trip film's misgivings and there's nothing memorable in terms of big comedy moments you can take away. A slow road movie and a big disappointment.