By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Melissa McCarthy stars in it, she and her real-life husband (Ben Falcone) co-wrote it and served as producers, and he directed it.
All well and good.
But they sure could have used someone to point out things in the broad farce, Tammy, that, tell me true, just were not working.
McCarthy stars in this raucous road-trip comedy as the slovenly, unfiltered, and intellectually challenged title character, a fast-food worker in southern Illinois who has a real bad day: first she totals her car, next she arrives at work only to be fired from her fast-food job, then she goes home to find her husband (Nat Faxon) sitting down to a romantic dinner with another woman, a neighbor (Toni Collette).
You would think that this pile-on of undeserved misfortune would get us on any protagonist’s side forever.
No such luck.
So she stops by her mother’s (Allison Janney) house just down the street and soon takes off for greener pastures with her tippling, diabetic grandmother, Pearl, played by McCarthy’s miscast but gifted co-star, Susan Sarandon, who lives with Tammy’s mother.
And not only do they take off in Pearl’s car, she brings along her savings to bankroll the road trip. Their destination: Niagara Falls, which is on Pearl’s bucket list.
With a supporting cast that includes Dan Aykroyd as Tammy’s father, Mark Duplass as her romantic interest, Gary Cole as Pearl’s romantic interest, Kathy Bates as a lesbian cousin of Pearl’s, and Sandra Oh as a new friend and party hostess, director Falcone is certainly blessed with a superior ensemble.
Unfortunately, saddled with an inferior script and allowed (or, perhaps, urged) to do far too much improvising, they end up severely underutilized and underemployed. To say nothing of miscasting, which, starting with Sarandon and trickling on down, goes for just about everyone in the ensemble except McCarthy.
That McCarthy gets to anchor comedies built around her is a good thing on several levels –- for her, for women in film, for us.
And fashioning a more likable central character would be a promising start.
In Tammy, the pathos and hard truths trotted out in the third act are crowbarred into this slapstick vehicle as if flown in from another movie.
And before we completely tire of McCarthy’s comedy-flavor-of-the-month act, it might be useful to remember that the unapologetically silly and undeniably hysterical shtick that she displayed in Bridesmaids in a shallow supporting role (or in any TV sketch) -– that is, in small doses that leave us wanting more — wears out its welcome quickly when it comes from the allegedly three-dimensional lead character.
So we’ll drive in the direction of 2 stars out of 4. Tammy is a road-trip comedy that runs out of gas so early, it doesn’t arrive anywhere near its destination.