Count me as a Melissa McCarthy fan. I have a soft spot for her particular brand of loud, brash comedy. Considering the cast she has assembled for Tammy I would say she has a few fans in Hollywood as well. And despite the bizarrely negative early buzz from critics I quite enjoyed it. Sure, it’s not the most beautifully assembled comedy ever but that sort of gives it its charm.
McCarthy plays the titular Tammy – a brazen low-life fast food worker with no ambition. After clobbering a deer and showing up late and dirty to work Tammy finds herself without a job and soon without a marriage. Soon she is fighting with her mother (Allison Janney), packing a bag and accompanying her grandmother Pearl (a scene-stealing Susan Sarandon) to Niagara Falls in a beat up Cadillac.
Yes, a road trip is a tired trope in movies. I get it. But so is everything coming out of the Rogen/Apatow/Hill camp. If it’s funny, who cares if the path isn’t an original one? And that’s where Tammy shines. Director Ben Falcone (real life Husband of McCarthy’s) allows this incredible cast to stretch their comedic chops in nearly every scene. The amount of improv was probably staggering on set but this cast is so good at it that most of the laughs land quicker than the duds linger.
McCarthy has gained some serious credibility over the last few years in Hollywood. This clearly lent her the ability to cast titans like Susan Sarandon – as the whip-smart, hard drinking grandma Pearl, and Kathy Bates – as Pearl’s lesbian cousin turned pet store tycoon. Even Allison Janney, Toni Collette and Sandra Oh make cameo appearances. It’s infinitely refreshing to watch a film filled with talented women being hysterical for a change. I’d never tire of listening to Bates’ character Lenore explain to Tammy how to properly dispose of a car she committed a robbery in.
The film isn’t perfect however. Director Ben Falcone is clearly getting his feet under him. He’s rarely confident enough to stray from standard sitcom direction that leaves the film too often in Adam Sandler-esque visual territory. With a slightly defter hand I could imagine Tammy striking a similarly silly visual tone to go along with the consistent stream of one-liners. The script also struggles at times to maintain consistency – veering from sappy melodrama to sight gags with little regard for tone.
With Adam Sandler being dethroned as the go-to 4th of July comedy titan I’m pulling for McCarthy to take that seat. She brings a similar sensibility to the table that unleashed early-90’s comedy classics from Sandler, Farley and Carrey. It’s an energy that is missing from a lot of modern comedies. It is an ability to make you laugh and crank up the cheesiness just enough to make you care.
That heart is mostly missing in a cinematic world of cynicism we are mired in. Seriously though – Transformers 4 is going to make $1 billion worldwide – what the hell is wrong with people? So in this world I root for Melissa McCarthy. She’s made a small comedy about women that is positioned against a Michael Bay behemoth on the largest movie-going weekend of the year – when has that EVER happened? Tammy may not be the best comedy I’ve ever seen but it’s exactly what this summer movie season needed.