'Tammy' review, starring Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon

Like many actors before her, Melissa McCarthy is taking the next step up with her newest project, Tammy. A passion project for her and her husband, Ben Falcone, the film represents her and Falcone’s first produced film screenplay, while also serving as McCarthy’s first movie as a producer and Falcone’s first movie as a director.

With their fingers dipped in several different pies in this picture, it’s natural to assume that this new film is not just your average run-of-the-mill paycheck for McCarthy. After years of hard work, she is finally getting to make a film she wants to make. Which is commendable, if not downright inspiring. But, having seen the final film, you won’t have known that this was something special for them unless noted otherwise, like I did just now.

Tammy focuses on—you guessed it—Tammy (McCarthy), a hard-on-her-luck fast food employee who, in one day, loses her car, her job and her husband. Seeing her frustrated and distraught, Tammy’s alcoholic grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), figuring that she is her last chance to live large, decides to grab her $40,000 and surge it with her granddaughter on a trip to Niagara Falls. But, naturally, along the way they discover more about each other and are supposed to grow as characters.

The best thing that can be said about Tammy is that, objectively, it is better than McCarthy’s last two films, Identity Thief and The Heat. Where those two movies tried way, way too hard to milk the actress for all she’s worth—to the worst possible result—this film is decidedly more restrained, despite trying to lead itself off of their heels. The result, then, is a movie that isn’t so much annoying as it is just plain dull.

Tammy is a comedy where nothing really happens. Now, granted, there are tons of grounded, independent comedies (i.e. mumblecore films) that have succeeded on this low-key sensibility. But what makes those movies work is that the characters themselves have to be both relatable and believable. In McCarthy and Falcone’s script, however, this never really presents itself. Not that any of the characters are too brash or loud like the films on McCarthy’s resume last year, but they never approach themselves as crossing into the point of genuinely being realistic.

This is not to say that they are not likable, or, at least sympathetic. If there is one thing in particular that Tammy strives on, it’s showcasing the actresses’ more well-mannered sensibilities. As someone who believes that McCarthy is actually a much better dramatic actress than comedic, this suits her far more than the roles that she has made a name for herself. Falcone is obviously more aware of McCarthy’s talents than Paul Feig and especially Seth Gordon, and is able to balance her capabilities in both comedy and drama well.

It’s just a shame that he can’t really direct anyone else that well. The cast is all quite talented, but besides Kathy Bates and Mark Duplass, nobody seems to be given anything special to do. Due to the lackluster and generic screenplay, the characters come across as rather underwritten and one-note, and Falcone’s direction is so generic and amateurish that he can’t make their performances any more interesting, despite their efforts otherwise.

Worse yet, the movie doesn’t even have any big set pieces or big laughs, seemingly intentionally. It seems like it wants to be something along the lines of a James L. Brooks film, but also wants to appeal to the raunchy, gut-busting comedies—sometimes “comedies”—that has defined McCarthy’s career. The result is a movie that never truly finds its own identity, and, as a result, coasts off of other ones before it.

There is more here to recommend than McCarthy’s other starring vehicles of late. She and Duplass do have good, natural chemistry together, and there are some sweet character moments to be found in here. Better than, there are some quite moments that do provide a chuckle or two, and its always refreshing to see an R-rated comedy that doesn’t always seem to need to shout and cuss.

But, much like this year’s Blended, this comedy, although nowhere near the worst film the star has made, is just simply too generic and lifeless to make any impact. Despite some nice moments, Tammy is just too mild-mannered and flat-footed to hit its mark.

Image courtesy of INFphoto.com

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