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July 3, 2014

Melissa McCarthy is one of those comedic actors who just suddenly blew up one day. She was on several shows before being cast as the lead in Mike and Molly, but it wasn’t until Bridesmaids was a huge hit that she actually became a household name (and even then she was just ‘the funniest one in Bridesmaids‘ for a while). Since then she’s been a part of several good films and has created a reputation as a bankable name, which is really awesome. I mention all of this because make no mistake her latest film Tammy is ultimately a vehicle for her to be hilarious and interesting.

What you won’t get from the amazing trailer, which contains just one of the set pieces within this film, is that Tammy is a road trip movie that centers on the adventures of the eponymous character and her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon, who is hilarious). Tammy is, like many stock characters before her, a down on their luck everyman who is rough around the edges and can’t seem to get their life together. Her adventure begins when she’s fired from her job, her car breaks down, and she arrives home to find her husband cheating on her with the neighbor.

This horrible day is the impetus for her to get out of her hometown and leave it behind forever. Except that her car has been beaten to shit and she has no cash. So when she tries to get assistance from her mother (Allison Janney) and is refused, she ends up in an uneasy partnership with her grandmother Pearl, who has a fat stack of cash, an old Cadillac, and a Fuck This attitude. What then ensues is a series of hijinks that land them in surprisingly not completely over-the-top scenarios but outrageous ones that still manage to be believable. All of this, of course, culminates into a larger life lesson for both Tammy and Pearl that leads to a touching heartfelt finale.

It’s paint by the numbers and that’s perfectly alright.

This isn’t a movie that’s trying to be more than it is, it’s a road trip movie starring Melissa McCarthy. That means that while it definitely has some glaring flaws, namely that the movie is less about its plot or characters than it is the interesting set pieces it puts them in to bounce off each other. That chemistry though is the movie’s strongest point in favor of itself. McCarthy and Sarandon are not only wonderful together but it’s easy to believe that they’re two people who have a big shared history like a grandmother and granddaughter should.

Sadly though, while this movie definitely tries to have its big heartfelt and shocking moments unlike it’s tremendous amount of belly laugh inducing gags, it doesn’t have much interest in setting them up. The humor in this movie is big, loud, and interesting with only a few gags running under the radar for sharp eyed viewers to catch. The build up to the big emotional moments for Sarandon and McCarthy though start off very subtle, then get spelled out to us apropos of nothing, before fading into the background again and finally exploding at the appropriate point in the run time. By the end of the film, Tammy gets the appropriate talking to from the more sensible Lenore (Kathy Bates who steals the few scenes she’s in), who as Pearl’s cousin also has insight into her and thus can shed some light on the relationship that Tammy and her share.

At the end of the day though, the things the movie does to trick you into thinking it has an emotional core aren’t as important to it as the jokes that come off of that. Most comedy comes from a darker more complex place, it’s just a question of how much of that place we get to see. I think the emotional hits in Tammy could have been bigger if they put more work into it but honestly the minimal effort they did allows me to appreciate the jokes a lot more.

Speaking of minimal effort there’s a B or C plot in here where Tammy begins a budding relationship with Bobby (Mark Duplass of The League), who is the son of Earl (Gary Cole being as ridiculous as he always is), who is a guy that Pearl drunkenly shacks up with in a thoroughly awesome scene. Mark Duplass seems even more withdrawn than usual in this role, and though his bumbling somewhat dickish charm still helps to sell him enough, this plot line just did nothing for me. I don’t think it worked for anyone in the theater but it did help set up some great jokes, so I guess I can’t complain?

Which ultimately is the heart of Tammy.

This isn’t the greatest comedy of the summer by far but it is cute. The leads are fantastic, the direction’s solid, and it has a pretty damn good soundtrack. What it does wrong can be easily forgiven because all of its missteps lead you to laughs, which is all you can ask for from a comedy. If you’re a fan of Melissa McCarthy this is a movie you might want to check out in theaters, but if you wait till it comes to a streaming service there’s no reason to get bent out of shape about it.


From → Movies

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