Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Melissa McCarthy’s hilarious, 
but the script can’t deliver on expectations

      Yes, Melissa McCarthy emerged as a unique force of nature in the movies three years ago as a smart, foul-mouthed, gifted physical comic actress.  The previews for Tammy actually worked because they made us want to see it.  We went with Martha and Kaylee.  Bryce had heard it wasn’t
that funny and John thought McCarthy would do her same tough, chip on her shoulder, revealed as a softie character.  Neither was wrong, but the movie was more complicated than I expected and it opens and closes possibilities for McCarthy.

Sarandon and McCarthy on the Road
     Tammy is two movies:  a sweet, sentimental comedy where Tammy and her Grandmother, an alcoholic that Susan Sarandon plays expertly, find the courage to re-make their lives, and a raucous series of skits and bits that demonstrate the decline and fall of Tammy.  The broader comedy is very funny, though much of it has been revealed in previews and on talk shows.  There’s less cursing than in last year’s The Heat, but McCarthy is so good that she could actually perform most of these scenes silently and probably garner greater laughs.  

     Tammy’s back-story doesn’t make complete sense because her parents (Allison Janney and Dan Ackroyd) seem sensible and loving.  This disproves the adage ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,’ but it never has been true for everyone.  Tammy complains about her life and wants out of her hometown.  She gets fired from her fast food job and walks out on her cheating husband.  This happens in the first ten minutes so I’m not revealing too much of the plot.  

McCarthy and Real Life
Husband, Falcone
     At first, Tammy seems like she must be from a very poor background, but then we find out she’s actually lower middle class.  McCarthy and her husband/co-writer/director Ben Falcone box themselves in with a negative caricature and then have a difficult time trying to develop her into a fuller, more compelling character. Susan Sarandon provides a pro’s attitude, but her character is almost as negative as Tammy’s.  I wish they’d either gone more daring into Thelma & Louise (1991) territory or that Sarah Baker (wonderful earlier in the spring as Vanessa on Louie) had taken to the road with McCarthy.  She has a different rhythm, which would have been intriguing.

     The biggest problem is that the script is weak.  Whenever a character has to say something like “if you work hard in America, you can have a huge ass house too” (because real estate porn has been our national obsession since the advent of the McMansion, circa 1990), I want to point out the hard work that many custodians, servers, and cashiers put into their job – and sometimes more than one – yet barely make ends meet.  Yes, I know the real point is that Tammy is a whiner who’s made dumb decisions and needs to turn her life around.  I expect more from McCarthy.

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