Tammy is the latest instalment in a series of movies featuring Melissa McCarthy acting inappropriately. It garnered her an Academy Award nomination in Bridesmaids, it repelled good taste in Identity Thief, and brought in lots of giggles in The Heat.
Now, her rude persuasiveness finds its way in the backwoods. Tammy, which embraces its hickabilly fog, has McCarthy playing the title role and hitting the road with her blunt, booze gulping grandma (played by Susan Sarandon) on a self-serving mission to get to Niagara Falls. McCarthy’s real-life husband Ben Falcone (who usually has walk-on cameos in McCarthy vehicles) makes his directorial debut with this unlikely road trip.
Tammy is actually the calmest, warmest character McCarthy has played as of late. She plays the role with a certain kind of innocence and – dare I say – delicateness that shows Tammy is just trying to fit in. After getting in a car accident with a deer, getting fired from her job due to tardiness, and finding out her husband has a more sedated relationship on the side, all she wants to do is find a new normal.
Sarandon finds her place in the story when Tammy is in need of funds and a car to get her on her way. Grandma Pearl, who has been looking for a way out of the country town, happily hops in the passenger seat.
There are prat falls by Tammy and plans intentionally lacking agileness and common sense (a fumbled robbery at a fast food restaurant and its follow-up gives the film a lot of chuckles), but the slapstick benefits our two leads because they know how to pull it off.
The other half of the jokes stem from their surroundings. Falcone doesn’t go out to mock small town folk, getting cheap laughs by hitting low hanging fruit. He (along with co-writer/producer McCarthy) would rather work on convincing chemistry between Tammy and other roadside acquaintances, which is genuine enough to figure out how to work for a hearty comedy.
The film has a bit of a finicky time pitching a topic as humourous and then spinning it into something the audience needs to take seriously. Pearl’s ability to always sneak a flask and get tipsy is initially proposed as one of her character’s wacky quirks. But, when the film slows itself down, her drinking is then pitched as a problem with uncomfortable outbursts and blacking out. The heaviness is only there to add a conflict between McCarthy and Sarandon, but nonetheless, it’s a bit of a weird bait-and-switch asking movie goers to laugh at something, only to be scolded afterwards.
Tammy has a lot of laughs. Consider it one of this Summer’s funniest comedies. But, what really makes it float as well as it does is it’s willingness to challenge itself. McCarthy may be acting inappropriately once again, but she does the schtick well when given a new list of guidelines to work with.