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Wednesday, July 2, 2014 11:04 am

McCarthy’s Act Wears Thin in “Tammy”

Not sure if I am the only one but I’ve gotten tired of Melissa McCarthy’s shtick already.  Though having toiled in film and on television for over the better part of a decade, it seems as though the actress just arrived on the scene with her star-making turn in 2011’s Bridesmaids.  Since then, she has a hit TV show and four movies under her belt and in following the maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” she’s yet to vary the sort of role she plays.  

Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) gets ready to make a mess of things again in Tammy.
Courtesy Warner Brothers


As the lead and co-writer of her latest feature Tammy, McCarthy makes sure she stays in her comfort zone as a foul-mouthed, obnoxious, rude, ignorant, childish, delusional, abrasive and irresponsible woman who just can’t seem get her life together.  If this sounds familiar than you’ve seen, among others, Identity Thief and The Heat and if there’s anything innovative about this film it’s that it’s a road movie.  Having lost her car, husband and job all in one day, the title character decides to do what she always does when the chips are stacked against her – she runs away. However, she’s forced to take her alcoholic grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) with her, as she has a nest egg and car at her disposal.

What ensues is a meandering journey towards a predictable end that allows McCarthy to ham it up as Tammy manages to get into one ridiculous predicament after another.  She leaves her job by defiling food in front of customers; she awkwardly tries to pick up a man and goes down in flames; she robs a fast food joint but is more concerned about scoring hot pies than big money.  These moments and many more are rendered by McCarthy with what’s become her trademark routine – initially aggressive, then childish and finally apologetic, all of it rendered in broad strokes with the actress opening her eyes wide, executing a pratfall and sheepishly pandering for our sympathy.

Tammy and her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) meet their match in Tammy.
Courtesy Warner Brothers

If there’s a silver lining here it’s Sarandon, a consummate pro who’s able to create a sympathetic character despite being handed a rather thinly written part.  Having spent over four decades in front of a camera, delivering honest moments on screen is second nature to the veteran actress and that holds her in good stead here as she’s able to imbue Pearl with a sense of familiarity that will ring true with the audience.  Here’s a woman who’s made many mistakes in her life, continues to make them, is a slave to her addiction and yet we don’t hate her or excuse her for her actions. Sarandon is able to bring a sense of reality to the film that’s sorely lacking and the fact that she’s acting instead of performing like her co-star makes for an interesting contrast between subtlety and grandstanding.

Really, in the end that winds up being the biggest problem with the film.  Every character in it is more interesting than Tammy.  The supporting cast includes Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette and Gary Cole and each of them outshines McCarthy.  The reason for this is that these veteran performers aren’t pandering for our attention, they’re simply doing their jobs, bringing their characters to life as best they can instead of begging for our approval, something that the title character and the woman playing her have in common. 

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