Tammy (15/R, 97 mins)
Director: Ben Falcone
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Since making a big impression (and landing an Oscar nomination) with Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy has firmly established herself as a leading comic talent.
Here with Tammy she gets a screenplay credit for the first time, co-writing with her husband Ben Falcone, who also makes his feature directing debut. Unfortunately they’ve come unstuck and aren’t able to deliver anything like the necessary hit rate of laughs required for a mainstream summer comedy.
McCarthy is a very talented comic actor, but she’s in danger of selling herself short if she continues in these kinds of roles. Her loudmouth and slobby routine has been the go-to since the unfunny Identity Thief, although it served her well in The Heat last year, helped by the balance with Sandra Bullock.
Tammy ends up getting fired from her job at a burger joint as an indirect result of the deer incident, although by the looks of it that dismissal had been coming for a while. She also discovers her husband is having an affair with a neighbour and so decides to leave town.
But with no car to make good her escape, she tries to borrow one from her mother (Allison Janney), who is well aware of her slippery nature. As it turns out, Tammy’s ailing grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon, presumably supposed to be playing 80), also wants to get out of her mother’s house and Tammy needs a car, and so the pair of them set off together on what should be the start of an uproarious road trip, but which doesn’t seem to have any destination or purpose in mind.
It’s only when Tammy meets Bobby (Mark Duplass) and his father, who takes a shine to Pearl, that she sees what a decent person is like. But even with that, character shifts seem sudden and unearned.
And though McCarthy and Sarandon do their best with their poorly conceived roles, they're barely able to raise a smile between them. A ridiculously starry cast fills out the rest of the film, though many of them are in very small roles; quite why Toni Collette and Dan Aykroyd show up for one scene apiece is a mystery.
That would simply be a side note if the film were only funnier. But the sad truth is that Tammy is so low on viable jokes that you begin to wonder if it maybe isn’t supposed to be a comedy at all.