By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
After sitting through the abysmally bad Identity Thief and the lukewarm The Heat, I went into Tammy not expecting much, but hoping for a decent comedy. After some breakthrough performances by Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids and This is 40, I had become rather disappointed with the recent film choices she had made. I feel that McCarthy is a genuine comic talent, but tends to go for the cheap physical laughs and ludicrous caricature roles, rather than actually making her characters genuine and realistic, After sitting through Tammy, I breathed a moderate sigh of relief, as this film definitely is an improvement and step in the right direction. Aside from a few lame physical gags and some joke duds, the movie actually offers some genuinely funny and smartly performed humor. McCarthy, who co-wrote the script with husband Ben Falcone (who also directs), actually has come up with a fun and heartfelt story that features well developed and fully realized characters.
McCarthy stars as the titular character Tammy who has hit a proverbial wall in her life. After losing a not-so-great job at a fast food restaurant and discovering that her husband Greg (Nat Faxon) has been having an affair, Tammy decides to go on a getaway road trip to Niagra Falls with her wild and feisty grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon). During the trip their misadventures help the two relatives to bond after being estranged for a long time and both come to realization that their lives are in need of some major changes.
I have to say that this first time screenplay collaboration between McCarthy and Falcone actually impressed me with its solid character development and often funny comic writing. Once again McCarthy’s reliance on physical gags involving her size irritated me a bit. I can appreciate that she has the courage to poke fun at herself, but because she already has overplayed these type of gags in her movie appearances, it now seems like a lazy device on which to rely. McCarthy’s gift of gab and improvisation has wowed me in the past and definitely slayed me here. I just wished more of the humor worked in this movie, as it gets off to a uncomfortably slow start.
The movie doesn’t really get going until Susan Sarandon enters the picture. She and McCarthy make a praiseworthy comic duo, with Sarandon serving as a no-nonsense foil to some of Tammy’s inept silliness. Don’t get me wrong, though, Sarandon doesn’t always play it straight. She too has her comedic moments and she absolutely shines in them. Tammy also offers some great performances and appearances by Kathy Bates (Lenore), Allison Janney (Tammy’s mother), Gary Cole (Earl), Mark Duplass (Bobby), Sandra Oh (Suzanne), Dan Aykroyd (Tammy’s father), and Nat Faxon (Greg).
Even McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone gets in on the fun as Tammy’s goofy boss Keith Morgan. I must say for a first time director, he actually does a decent job helming this film which is a much needed return to form for McCarthy. Granted, this film may not be a comedy masterpiece, but at least McCarthy has taken better control of her career and is making better decisions regarding her acting and casting choices. The endearing and fun Tammy would make for an enjoyable matinee trip to the cinema.