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Tammy | Review

Tammy Girl: Falcone’s Debut a Tepid Turkey

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Rex Reed might have been better served to save his wayward disparagements about the cinematic talents of Melissa McCarthy for her turn in Tammy, even though his cacomorphobia and repellant misogyny would still have been best left for a conversation amongst a likeminded coterie. After box office hits with Identity Thief and The Heat in 2013, McCarthy’s star power has afforded her the chance to get her own vehicles off the ground. Pity then that her first major venture, co-written and directed by husband Ben Falcone, is so miserably underwhelming. Reminiscent of how Chris Farley’s comedic talents were often squandered on sub-par projects in the 90’s, McCarthy seems intent to repeat the trashy lass formula that’s served her so well, but her eponymous protagonist grates rather than skates above the mediocrity of the material.

Recently fired from her job in a fast food joint, Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) simultaneously discovers that her husband (Nat Faxon) is diddling the neighbor lady (Toni Collette). Luckily, Tammy’s mom (Allison Janney) lives right next door, since Tammy aims to take her car and get the hell out of Dodge. But Tammy’s mom won’t let her take her car, which leads to Tammy taking her alcoholic, diabetic granny (Susan Sarandon) for an adventure, offering her car and $6,000 in cash to bankroll the endeavor. And so, the two ladies engage in a series of hijinks as they kinda sorta make their way to Niagara Falls.

From its awkward opening moments, featuring McCarthy in vehicular shenanigans with a CGI basted deer (not unlike a similar moment in Farley’s Tommy Boy), we’re immediately distracted by the casting of Susan Sarandon as her grandmother and Allison Janney as her mother, as the age of all three females is glaringly off kilter (Sarandon is roughly 13 years older than Janney, who, in turn is about a decade older than McCarthy). Try as she might, even with a pair of swollen ankles and a gray granny bob, Sarandon still looks too good to be entirely believable here (her clichéd sexy granny montage in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones seemed more palatable). If she were a decade older and McCarthy a decade younger, perhaps this would have worked.

An inconsistent screenplay doesn’t help matters either, with a rather lazily drawn relationship between Tammy and her grandma completely undecided about what exactly it’s trying to do. An exemplary yet unnecessary supporting cast can’t enliven anything either, from Gary Cole to Sandra Oh to a wasted Toni Collette. It must be noted that Kathy Bates, however, gives a delicious turn as a no-nonsense lesbian, granted a monologue that could have been somewhat effective had it been featured in a film about something.

But Tammy, which, as titled, calls for a larger than life personality, is at its worst when struggling through a gasping romance between McCarthy and Mark Duplass, a man we’re meant to believe is drawn to her off-putting personality (with that unfortunate wig that looks like a fox pelt) simply because his life is boring and she’s interesting. And is there any point in complaining about the use of Macklemore’s track “Thrift Shop” laid over Tammy’s hold up of a fast food restaurant, a scene now so stale due to the initial marketing blitz that’s it’s about as savorless as those hot pies she nabs with the cash? As in, where exactly does this track fit thematically in the scheme of what’s actually happening? Muddled, morosely fashioned, and utterly inane, let’s hope this caps McCarthy’s trilogy of unkempt, floppy females with a heart-of-gold so she can move on to material more worthy of her talents.

Grinding to a halt in the spectacle of Niagara Falls, a nice touch would have been Debbie Reynolds’ signature track, “Tammy,” if at least to give this leathery emptiness a little texture, but Falcone and McCarthy aren’t trying for referential. Their ‘Tammy’ creation is a mild hill billy-ish concoction without any kind of merit to render her a memorable presence.

★½/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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