The Bock’s Office: ‘Tammy’ is a road movie that misses its exit
July 10, 2014
The underlying theme of most films that take place behind the wheel is that the destination is less important than the personal journey people embark on while getting there. If that's so, what are we to make of a movie such as "Tammy," where it seems the parking brake is stuck for most of the action?
Wrecking your car is a pretty poor way to begin your day, but for Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) it's just the tip of the iceberg.
Her involvement in a highway accident causes her to be late for work, resulting in her termination from fast food restaurant Topper Jack's, and the chain of events only keeps getting worse when she returns home to find her husband (Nat Faxon) cheating on her with their neighbor (Toni Collette).
Distraught with how her life has been going, Tammy is in need of a change of scenery, and the only person with a set of wheels who will still put up with her is her Grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon), meaning the two of them are hitting the road and not looking back.
However, even as they get out of their small Illinois town en route to a vacation at Niagara Falls, Tammy's streak of bad luck isn't over yet.
McCarthy's bombastic performances from "Bridesmaids," "Identity Thief" and "The Heat" have set a template for the majority of her acting gigs henceforth — women who are loud and usually not very bright but impressive in physical comedy. Tammy has these traits too, but there's also an undertone of self-pity that starts out amusing as she lashes out at everyone for her problems but soon becomes tiresome the more stupid choices she makes.
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"Thelma & Louise" this isn't, but the more famous road movie will probably be in the back of your mind the entire time watching one of its stars as the boozy, libidinous Pearl, who, for all her sharp-tongued humor, doesn't quite make sense.
Sarandon is of the age where you could buy her with gray hair, but for the most part, she doesn't do much to convince us she's old enough to have a granddaughter who's in her 30s at the youngest.
At least when Estelle Getty pretended to be 20 years older, she made the effort to look it.
With Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd and other seasoned pros in ancillary roles, the conundrum isn't whether McCarthy and Sarandon can bear the burden of carrying this thing by themselves, because they clearly can. The question is the level of quality within the script that prevents them from doing so.
You'd think McCarthy and her husband/director Ben Falcone — who also plays Tammy's repugnant former boss in what looks like pure minimum wage hell — would be able to cobble together a screenplay that puts her abilities to their best use, yet there's no real payoff.
Yes, Tammy's whole detour in attempting one of the most ludicrous of holdups ever captured on film is funny, but it's after this high point in the middle that we just aren't interested anymore as the story goes all over the place. A few good gags every once in a while can't compensate for something that elicits only minor chuckles when there should be belly laughs.
"Tammy" the movie makes the mistake of being too much like Tammy the person — indecisive and ultimately destructive. You don't have to embrace your faults or even try to change them, but at least own up to them.
Even if she doesn't write again, the fearless McCarthy will no doubt go on to play another such character, hopefully with more success. Also, let's hope it's someone with the awareness not to liken her sex appeal to something that attracts a lot of flies.