Melissa McCarthy has gained a lot of box office clout in her rise to fame. She helped propel Bridesmaids to $289 million, then Identity Thief raked in $176 million, and last summer, she teamed up with boxoffice heavyweight Sandra Bullock in The Heat to the tune of $231 million. All those dollar signs means Hollywood will basically greenlight anything McCarthy wants to star in, and well Tammy certainly is anything.
McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone should know just because Hollywood is giving you a long leash doesn’t mean you should use it all. The couple co-wrote, co-produced, while Falcone directed, and of course, McCarthy stars (Falcone pops up briefly as Tammy’s boss). Tammy is obviously a passion project for the two, but who knows why. Tammy has nothing interesting to say and barely generates a few laughs.
The setup is a total cliche. Tammy hits a deer on her way to work, which delays her, and gets her fired. She doesn’t seem like a great employee anyways. She gets home early and finds her husband (Nat Faxon) with her neighbour (Toni Collette). She quickly grabs some stuff and leaves the house (odd scene) and heads over to her Mom’s (Allison Janney) to bitch about things. She decides to hit the road with her Grandma (Susan Sarandon), who hates living with her daughter, and they are off! How many sitcom cliches have we covered already? Oh, and by the way, Grandma is a floozy drunk! Of course!
The setup of all this is just head-scratching. Tammy leaving her marital home in a snap is weird, and then 54-year-old Alison Janney is playing Mom to 43-year old Melissa? And 67-year-old Susan Sarandon is playing Mom to Alison? Ok then. Sarandon is wearing a grey wig, but she looks like she’s wearing a wig.
So Tammy and Grandma Pearl are off on their road trip…and the rest of the plot is paperthin. The situations they do get into are nothing new and uninteresting. The writing struggles to make Tammy both outrageous and sympathetic. In McCarthy’s other films, she didn’t have to anchor the film. She was a supporting player in Bridesmaids, Jason Bateman carried Identity Thief, while Sandra Bullock knew how to make it work in The Heat. On her own, McCarthy’s schtick doesn’t have the same effect.
It doesn’t help that the film wastes its supporting cast, and what an incredible female cast it has. Award-winning actresses Janney, Collette, Sandra Oh, and Kathy Bates don’t get the chance to appear in a big summer Hollywood film very often, so I guess that’s the reason they signed on here. Or maybe they just really like McCarthy. Cause it certainly wasn’t their roles that got them excited (“I play a character who barely registers on screen? yay! i’m in!”). Collette’s screentime adds up to about 2 minutes and she has about 3 lines. Same with Oh. Only Bates gets a decent scene where she gives a speech about the struggle being a lesbian before it was “cool”.
Sarandon hasn’t had this big of a role in a major film in quite a while (she probably pokes her Meryl Streep voodoo doll every night). It’s a shame the role she gets here is such a cliche. Grandma Pearl is the typical “funny” drunk, but the writing just pushes it way too far. She’s literally drinking or popping pills in almost every moment of the film. It’s sad instead of funny.
There’s a lot written about the lack of female-led films being made by Hollywood studios, and McCarthy is now one of the few actresses that can get them made. Well, other actresses should be angry that she squandered the opportunity so terribly here. Hopefully Melissa learns her lesson that there’s no reason to try to keep it all in the family. There’s lots of talented writers and directors in the biz, and she should use them to her advantage.