Obnoxious Tammy a Jumbled Comedic Mess
Tammy Banks (Melissa McCarthy) is having a bad day. First off, she totaled her car in an accident involving a preternaturally resilient deer. Next, she lost her job at the local fast food joint. Finally, her husband Greg (Nat Faxon) is having an affair with their next door neighbor, Missi (Toni Collette), putting the capper on the worst morning a person could arguably ever have.
With her drunken grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) eager to hit the road and do something exciting, and much to the chagrin of her fusspot mother Deb (Allison Janney), Tammy makes the impromptu decision to get out of town. With a loose plan to head in the general direction of Niagara Falls, she and Pearl undergo a series of unusual, nonsensical adventures (most of them coming apart at the seams thanks to the latter’s alcoholism), making new friends and visiting old ones their journey filled with life lessons both women will unexpectedly learn to embrace.
Tammy is about as close to a low budget, mumblecore, Sundance-like independently produced rambunctiously haphazard ensemble relationship comedy as anything a major Hollywood studio (in this case Warner Bros courtesy of New Line) has ever financed and released on thousands of screens nationwide. The movie disjointed and all over the map, dealing with a tone of ideas and concepts it doesn’t entirely know what to do with. It’s messy and undefined, bringing up intriguing possibilities only to rarely do anything of merit with any of them, and while there are plenty of laughs to be found there are just as many – if not more – sighs of discontent to be uttered throughout the enterprise’s 96-minute running time as well.
A labor of love for McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone (both wrote the script, while the latter also makes his directorial debut), the film is nonetheless a disheveled star-filled mongrel that can’t seem to find its footing. It’s a road trip comedy. It’s a buddy comedy. It’s a comedic drama about broken people learning to reconnect both with themselves as well as with the rest of the world. It’s a romantic comedy. It’s a gross-out comedy. It’s a serious foray into thirty-something discontent and malaise. It’s all of that and yet also so much more, everything moving along with an anything-goes gait that’s intriguing and off-putting both in equal measure.
There are some sensational bits of emotional humanistic insight, specifically during a couple of poignant quiet stretches where Tammy and Pearl attempt to make a connection while out on the road. There’s also a great lecture from Kathy Bates, appearing late in the film as a wise-ass lesbian with a penchant for blowing things up, and while what she says borders on cliché (and comes at a rather odd moment) the Oscar-winner delivers her words with such authentic conviction it’s hard not to find them effective. There are some surprisingly touching bits sprinkled helter-skelter throughout, and in the end it goes without saying that Sarandon has an innate ability to make even the most mundane and witless of situations feel genuine and true even if in reality they are anything but.
Then there’s McCarthy. She’s feisty and unpredictable, doing her best to craft a well-rounded character, unafraid to let Tammy be as ugly and as unlikable as necessary whenever the moment requires. Problem is, spending time with her can be more of a chore than it is worth, and while her situation is pitiable the actions she takes and the tantrums she’s prone to throwing are hardly endearing. I like the fact the comedian is attempting to stretch, is content not to just keep turning in audience-friendly performances found in the likes of The Heat and Bridesmaids. Be that as it may, she and Falcone haven’t exactly made it easy on themselves, McCarthy’s character difficult to embrace and even harder to want to spend more than a couple of minutes with at any one time with.
There’s not a lot of reason to go into more detail. Tammy is a jumble of ideas and concepts, dropping its all-star contingent (the cast also includes Mark Duplass, Gary Cole, Sandra Oh, Sarah Baker and Dan Aykroyd) in the middle of all this bedlam and pretty much lets them rip with barely a concept of what the outcome is supposed to be. More than that, it’s supposed heartwarming conclusion, while bringing a smile to my face, isn’t earned, letting characters off the hook for actions and transgressions that are borderline heinous. For all the talent involved, and there’s a stupefying ton of it, Tammy is half-baked at best, making watching the finished product as tedious and as arduous a process as anything I’ve experienced this year.
Film Rating: 2 out of 4
Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle