Anything for a Laugh

Melissa McCarthy is up for anything…but is that a good thing?

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Tammy

Starring Melissa McCarthy & Susan Sarandon

Directed by Ben Falcone

R, 96 min.

Melissa McCarthy’s breakout, in the raunchy hit 2011 comedy Bridesmaids, was an Oscar-nominated supporting role in which her character pooped in a bathroom sink.

As her star ascended, with Sandra Bullock in The Heat and Jason Bateman in Identity Thief, her humor didn’t necessarily rise alongside it to a higher, classier level. Now, in her first bona fide star vehicle—which she co-wrote and produced and her husband, actor Ben Falcone, directed—she sticks with the type of character, for better but mostly for worse, her fans have come to recognize…and expect.

We meet Tammy in the first scene driving her junk car, stuffing her face and jamming out to classic rock on the radio. She’s a big, sloppy mess with a big heart—and big problems. Soon enough, she loses her job, finds her husband cheating with another woman, and sets off on a boozy cross-country road trip with her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) to see Niagara Falls.

L14A2579.dngIt’s all meant to be a custom-made template for the wide-open, plus-size shenanigans of the boldly physical McCarthy, who fearlessly charges and barges from one gag to the next. Tammy crashes a jet ski into a pier. Tammy brags about her irresistible sexual prowess—only to be flatly rebuffed by every guy she approaches in a bar. Tammy puts a greasy paper bag on her head to stick up a hamburger joint.

The story careens between crude, lewd slapstick, sentiment, and family woes so deep and dark you’ll have to remind yourself you’re watching a comedy. The characters of Tammy and her grandmother are so poorly written, so badly formed, they seem to be different people at different times, sometimes during the same scene.

The supporting cast—Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Dan Aykroyd—loll about, pop in, pop out. But none of them are given anything of real significance to do, and I have to wonder what Kathy Bates was thinking as she delivered a ridiculous soliloquy to a piece of sporting equipment at a Viking funeral.

And, shades of Thelma and Louise, what is Susan Sarandon, wearing a grey wig that looks like it’s on loan from the prop closet of TV’s Mama’s Family, doing here at all? She’s a total pro, but she’s barely 20 years older than McCarthy, and the movie wants us to believe she can be Tammy’s grandmother? It’s a colossal casting fail, and it further bungles this bumpy inter-generational road trip.

TAMMYMcCarthy and her director husband Falcone (who appears in an early scene as Tammy’s boss) may enjoy working together, but it appears that what McCarthy really needs is someone who can funnel her comedic chops into something more focused and refined.

At one point, Tammy drives a car between two trees, where it gets stuck. But she keeps giving it the the gas, yelling, ripping off the rearview mirrors, denting the doors and the fenders, determined to get through—which she eventually does.

Like Tammy, McCarthy just keeps pressing, pushing, running, rolling, slamming and bamming—anything for a laugh, a chuckle, a giggle. Tammy may be one banged-up, scuffed-up, dented mess of a movie, but somehow, nonetheless, McCarthy makes it out, to the other side. To what, now, is the real question.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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