Overview: After a terrible, no good, very bad day, Tammy embarks on a road trip with her diabetic, alcoholic grandmother. 2014, Warner Bros Pictures, 96 minutes, Rated R.
Road Trip: Unless you came into the movie specifically aware of the run-time, there’s zero indication of plot progress when you’re riding along with Tammy and her grandma. If you pay close attention, you might catch a brief mention of the intention to journey to Niagara Falls, but otherwise this road trip is one without a destination in mind. In this case, it’s not supposed to be about where they’re going, but how they get there. Unfortunately, the audience isn’t always having as much fun as the cast. Ben Falcone’s lack of experience in the director’s chair is apparent as some of the awkward moments translate as unintentional fumbles rather than carefully planned opportunities.
The McCarthy Show: Since Bridesmaids firmly placed Melissa McCarthy in the comedic movie star spotlight, I’ve learned that her style is one that most audiences either love or hate. In most of her previous roles, another actor’s performance has been enough to buffer the abrasive presence that is McCarthy (Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Sandra Bullock) for those who aren’t fans. However, she co-wrote and produced Tammy with her husband Ben Falcone and the result is an aimless story that firmly rests its dynamic and success on her shoulders. Melissa McCarthy’s recipe for success lies in her ownership and delivery. Although she and her husband wrote the script together, most of the jokes fall flat. The character of Tammy conveys her quirky lack of intelligence by asking if Neil Armstrong got to the moon by riding his bike. If Tammy is said to have any charm, as a character and a movie, the charm isn’t in the delivery of poorly written jokes though, it’s in McCarthy herself. She has a self awareness like no one else, and she uses it to her advantage. Her body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice make it difficult not to enjoy her presence and/or be amused, which adds a degree of depth and vulnerability to an otherwise one dimensional character. She’s real, and she’s charming, and it’s refreshing to see her as the sole source of entertainment throughout the movie.
A pair of legendary supporting cast members offer strong moments. Kathy Bates doesn’t disappoint with her role as the no nonsense friend who has a passion for blowing things up. Susan Sarandon dons a goofy wig and successfully channels her Thelma & Louise days to portray a promiscuous, alcoholic grandmother. Although each woman holds her own with what she is given, their dynamic remains heavily reliant on McCarthy’s reactions for both laughs and heart.
In Conclusion: Even with the poor direction, poor writing, and lackluster plot, Melissa McCarthy elevates the film to make Tammy funnier than it has any right to be.