Since her breakout performance in 2011’s Bridesmaids, for which she earned an Oscar nomination, Melissa McCarthy has quickly risen to the level of A-list star. After co-starring in two more high-profile comedies and having supporting turns in two others, she has earned enough clout to make the movie she really wants to make.
So it’s more than a little disappointing that Tammy is so unfunny. Produced and co-written by McCarthy, and directed and co-written by her husband, Ben Falcone, the film mainly consists of one of the most horrific — as in difficult to watch — road trips you’ll ever see.
There are a handful of funny moments in the film, but the uneasy chemistry between Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon throws things out of whack.
In short order, Tammy (McCarthy) gets fired from her fast food job and then finds out that her husband is cheating on her with a neighbor. Desperate to get away, she jumps at an offer from her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon), who actually has money and a car, to be her road trip companion.
But little goes right on the trip, mostly because Pearl is an unrepentant alcoholic whose affection for Tammy can ebb or flow depending on how drunk she is. The two of them get into one tight jam after another, saved by Pearl’s dwindling pile of cash or, when that starts to run out, the kindness of friends and strangers they find along the way.
The whole thing ends up being so depressing that it makes you wonder if they were actually trying to make a comedy at all. There’s a difference between situations that are sad, from which laughs can be found, and ones that are downright miserable. The circumstances in which we encounter Tammy definitely fall into the latter category, and there’s little that McCarthy can do to put a cheery face on things.
Not helping matters is the scattershot nature of the story. Because the characters are constantly meeting new people, road trip movies are disconnected by nature. But Tammy feels especially unfocused, as if McCarthy and Falcone were more concerned with giving screen time to actors like Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Kathy Bates and Sandra Oh than in actually giving them something interesting to do.
Then there’s this: Rightly or wrongly, McCarthy’s weight has been a point of focus for many during her rise to fame. When finally given the chance to write her own material, what does she do? Naturally, she has her character make jokes about her love of junk food on multiple occasions. There are so many other avenues of humor she could have explored; why give her critics easy ammunition like that?
Although there are a handful of funny moments in the film, it’s the uneasy chemistry between McCarthy and Sarandon that throws things out of whack from the get-go. Put aside the fact that Sarandon is much too young to be playing either the mother of Allison Janney or the grandmother of McCarthy — the two of them just never jell, and most of the movie’s faults stem from that.
McCarthy is capable of producing great hilarity with her acting, but if Tammy is any indicator, she needs to leave the writing to other people.