During interviews promoting her latest release, Tammy, Melissa McCarthy has explained the process behind her comedic prowess:
I think as long as something’s real it’s more embarrassing for the audience. The stakes are higher, you feel for the people and that’s really my goal, is to make people uncomfortable and embarrassed. That’s what my job is: to make you super uncomfortable.
Having taken Hollywood by storm, with crowd-pleasers like The Heat and her Oscar nominated performance in Bridesmaids, McCarthy’s is clearly a technique that has served her well but with Tammy that method is tested to its limits as she takes the role of sole headliner for the first time.
Sharing the screen with McCarthy are the likes of Susan Sarandon, Mark Duplass and Kathy Bates in a road movie that idles far more than it revs. Having been fired from her job, lost her car to mechanical failure and discovered her husband’s affair all within the space of a few hours, Tammy (McCarthy) takes to the highway with her alcoholic grandmother, Pearl (Sarandon), in tow.
Perhaps the most damning criticism to be leveled against Tammy is that it feels aimless. Sure, as Tammy and Pearl begin their loose series of adventures they make mention of travelling to Niagra Falls but from there onwards things just seem to happen for the sake of happening, or rather, for the sake of setting up jokes. It’s the oldest and most major of screenwriting sins; events occur because the script requires them and characters act because the screenplay says so. There is nothing organic and it is evident throughout the 96 minute running time.
All of which would be forgivable in a comedy if the jokes could stand on their own but that isn’t the case here. Gags are informed by the characters and the two leads are almost entirely unlikeable. Tammy herself is an overgrown child, self-obsessed and deeply unintelligent, a woman who thrives only on the attention of others while Pearl is so dependent on alcohol that it is just about her only defining trait. As a result most genuine laughs are derived from McCarthy’s skills as a physical performer rather than the constant reminder that alcohol makes even the elderly really horny, a joke that is run into the ground long before the movie is willing to move on from it.
None of this is to suppose that Tammy is completely devoid of merit. The aforementioned physical presence McCarthy presents whilst robbing a restaurant is pitch-perfect and Kathy Bates shows up at the eleventh hour to deliver the most human and progressive speech of the whole movie (as well as being perhaps the most well realized character on show). In spite of these moments, none of the characters seem to have any sort of arc. Tammy and Pearl are in different mindframes by the time the credits roll but most frustrating of all Tammy‘s missteps is that they each reach their new perspectives offscreen. The one opportunity Tammy has to pull itself out of dismal pointlessness is squandered.
McCarthy appears to think that her ability to shock audiences is her main appeal and she might well be right as her latest feature has no shock value or any appeal of surprise. It’s just a shame that that is the only appeal that Tammy aims for because although it drives through scenes pretty quickly, it goes absolutely nowhere.
Incoherent, unpleasant and just generally not funny, Tammy is a mess worth missing.
Tammy Is Out Now in Cinemas Everywhere. Image Rights; Warner Bros Pictures and New Line Cinema.