Wednesday, July 2, 2014
The film opens with perhaps Tammy's (Melissa McCarthy) worst day ever. She hits a deer on the way to her fast food job. That accident destroys her car and gets her fired for being late. After she walks back home, she runs into her husband (Nat Faxon) who is making a nice dinner with their neighbor (Toni Collette). She decides to leave the town even though she doesn't really have a clue where to go. Now without a car, she asks to borrow her mother Deb's (Allison Janney) car. When Deb refuses, her alcoholic and pill popping grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon) jumps in with cash and a car. In a heartbeat, Tammy and Pearl hit the road.
Although the road trip has a rocky start and eventually brushes with the law, it doesn't repeat the thrill in "Thelma & Louise" (USA 1991). At a local bar, while Pearl finds her hot fling with a farmer Earl (Gary Cole), Tammy finds her own interest in Earl's mellow son Bobby (Mark Duplass). After Tammy hilariously robs a fast food joint, they take refuge at the mansion of Pearl's radical and wealthy lesbian cousin Lenore (Kathy Bates) and her decorative partner Susanne (Sandra Oh).
There is no doubt that first time director Ben Falcone wants to make us laugh with the presence of a very funny Melissa McCarthy, and he succeeds here and there in the film. Who can hold the laughter when Tammy hits the buttons on her "car radio" or when she tries to lock the freezer door with a spatula? And no matter how many times it has been used in other films, the slow motion shot of Melissa McCarthy's footsteps is a spectacle money shot that is still funny, for now.
But he also wants the film to be something bigger and tries to contain a message or two, and he often fails on that effort and distracts us from enjoying Melissa McCarthy's physical comedy. Tammy and Pearl's reconciliation and bond building is nothing short of a reprint from a formulaic Hollywood plot template. The film hardly scratches the surface of the challenges that minimum wage working class are facing.
Clearly, this is a film about Melissa McCarthy's recurring character, and most of the supporting cast are not up to the energy she projects. Despite the makeup, Susan Sarandon is simply too young to play Tammy's grandma. However, the terrific Kathy Bates always delivers a lecture as a dominate figure, which might explain why Sandra Oh is hardly given any line to speak as her partner.
Melissa McCarthy needs a new breakthrough and a new script to play. Sooner or later, her heavy body coming out of a car in slow motion will be no longer amusing. Then what?