Nutshell: I’d give it a C+. It’s not good, but it’s not a complete trash heap. Melissa McCarthy takes a pathetic person and gives her heart, but fans of Christina Yang will have to live with watching Sandra Oh just stand around for a handful of scenes. She’s not the only one who gets tossed off; Toni Colette and Allison Janney are in a brief, thankless roles too. But this movie isn’t a flat-out comedy, it’s a funny movie about flawed people. And so it kinda works. Kinda.
Here’s one: what’s funny, not funny, and then almost flat-out depressing ‘til a feel-good ending? Hey, how’d you know I was gonna say Tammy? Melissa McCarthy’s script that was shelved awhile back got dusted off and trotted out…and maybe if I’d paid for the privilege I’d be a bit more disappointed. But as it stands, Tammy is a film that isn’t gonna have you laughing your ass off, but there are enough genuine laughs and even some heart-growing scenes that were surprisingly on-point. Guess that’s what happens when you stuff a so-so script with a whole lot of top-shelf talent.
Tammy is a lower-middle class white-trash cliché. Driving a heap of a car that’s held together with empty food packets and sheer will, she’s late for her job at the local McDonalds rip-off TopperJacks. But she hits a deer when she takes her eyes off the road…which totals her car…which makes her disheveled and even more late for work…which gets her fired by her icky boss (Ben Falcone, McCarthy’s husband & the film’s director/writer)…which gets her home early so she can see her husband’s having an affair…which gets her to hey mom, I’m home!
But mom (an always welcome Allison Janney) ain’t havin’ it; Tammy is one big disappointment. But one person is ready to jump in and save the day, and that’s kooky ol’ Grandma (Susan Sarandon, with a mail-order wig and suitcase full of Walmart specials). Granny’s got pills, a 6-pack, and she’s ready to get the show on the road. Can Tammy turn herself around and not screw things up? Of course not. Well, not until the end scene, anyway. But y’all pretty much knew that, amirite?
McCarthy is, as always, adorable. Her Tammy is a woman who doesn’t like to have to make any kind of decisions, or take any responsibility for her actions. But darn if she doesn’t charm you when her freckle-faced, farmgirl-blond face lights up. The scene that’s been playing over and over in the trailer shows Tammy holding up a TopperJack’s, bag over her head and sunglasses twisted up in another to vaguely resemble a gun. The scene shouldn’t be as funny as it is, but it’s actually almost touching. She’s sweet to the staff, clueless as to how to go about things, and tosses off a few good quips. The secret to this scene working though? The one that immediately precedes it; Tammy amping herself up in the parking lot to bass-heavy Macklemore. It’s goofy, and McCarthy knows exactly how to goof it up without going overboard.
The same can be said of the rest of the cast, but with an award-winning roster like this, it’s not like they’d mess anything up. Susan Sarandon as Grandma Pearl is a Baby Boomer that still parties like it’s 1969. Kathy Bates as Pearl’s cousin Lenore is the movie’s Lesbian Guardian Angel, with plenty of money, a gorgeous house and a beautiful girlfriend (Sandra Oh, in a role that gives her nothing to do but stand beside Bates and beam, but I love her just the same). Then there’s the guys Pearl and Tammy (mostly Pearl) pick up at a bar, Gary Cole (Office Space) and Mark Duplass (The Mindy Project), who inject a little bit of romance into this Tammy & Louise road trip. Nat Faxon (whom I loved in the dearly departed Trophy Wife) plays Tammy’s suburban-blandly-handsome husband Greg, who’s been cheating on her with equally milquetoast neighbor Missi (the always fabulous Toni Colette, who, like Oh is given little to do but stand, sit and simper. And as with Oh, Colette’s deadpan is a scene stealer, which is kinda awesome.)
The music here is geared to get you bouncing along, and seves to pave over a few of the rough spots. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “The Breeze”, Macklmore’s “Thrift Shop”, “Your Love” by The Outfield, “Get Down on It” by Kool & The Gang, “Midnight Rider” by The Allman Brothers Band, and many other songs that just about everyone loves. Some are tied into the plot — seems Pearl had a go with a-one of the Allmans — and some are just put in to set a mood. Either way, they help lift things when the plot starts to wander, or get confused as to whether we’re supposed to be feeling sad or cheering on Our Girl.
Which is the reason I firmly sit in Meh Okay Land with this film. Tammy isn’t flat-out unlikeable, but the constant beat-down at the beginning of the film, and her unwillingness to open her eyes and adult-up? Ain’t particularly endearing. Luckily Sarandon’s grandma is ready to step in and party like Bluto during Rush Week. And who doesn’t love a drunk grandma? Y’know, except maybe grandpa, who has to make all the apologies the next day. But enough about my family. Points to this film for showing the dark side of overindulgence, something that many films gloss over.
The finale — can’t really call it a climax, it’s more of a So This Happened — shakes things up a bit, but all gets righted pretty quickly. Hey, the film’s about 97 minutes, it’s not gonna go deep. And that’s another saving grace; had Tammy been longer, it would have been insufferable. But just a taste isn’t gonna have me hating on it. It’ll never be a classic, but it has enough fun bits scattered throughout to keep things appealing.
Don’t get up immediately; there’s a bonus scene early on in the end credits that brings an early joke home, and ties up a few loose ends. Hey, you’re already in the theater, why not? Which is kinda the way you should approach going to see Tammy. Especially if matinee pricing is involved.