Tammy is an embarrassing misfire for Melissa McCarthy. She’s an actress that won the goodwill of many with her hilarious supporting performance in Bridesmaids, and followed suit with leading performances in Identity Thief and The Heat. She essentially works better alongside a group of strong comedic actors and within stories that don’t rely on her for narrative drive. But here, her husband Ben Falcone is writer, director, and co-star (albeit briefly) and shines a spotlight on a boring slob of a character about who I never really cared. There’s a genuine lack of comedy within a film that so desperately wants people to laugh; the jokes are dissonant and constantly fall flat. It feels like that type of comedic failure that comes along in every comedian’s career, yet it’s surprising how early McCarthy’s is coming. That’s primarily because her type of humor appealed more broadly over her previous efforts due to the people surrounding her, and now the work feels more forced and less amusing. The schtick has grown old.
The story centers on Tammy (Melissa McCarthy), a woman that has just about everything go wrong in her life. She loses her job at Topper Jack’s, a fast food joint that takes itself a bit too seriously, her husband cheats on her with the neighbor, and her car breaks down after hitting a deer while she rocked out to music. She heads a few houses down the street to her mother’s (Allison Janney) house, telling her that she’s going to skip town and start a new life. Her grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), decides to join her on that adventure, providing the car and money to get them along. Despite her mother’s objections, they head off and try to begin anew. Pearl is a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed woman that’s sexually promiscuous and adventurous. Tammy must deal with her shenanigans, which leads to a run-in with an older gentleman, Earl (Gary Cole), and his son, Bobby (Mark Duplass) at a dive bar. The older two have sex, the younger two bond, and they each cross paths while Tammy and grandma try to find their way.
The plot is flimsy like cardboard and dry like sandpaper. The story meanders and often follows whatever path Tammy takes, even if that fails to move the story forward or allow character progressions to happen naturally. The dialogue is repetitive and too straightforward, explaining every nuance of the story and allowing nothing to the imagination. It’s impressive how empty the experience becomes as it reaches its conclusion. Almost all of the supporting characters have no life, merely existing to push along Tammy and her development. What’s so dull about that element is the fact that Tammy is such an unrelatable character. She’s an energetic woman that certainly provides life to each scene, but McCarthy can’t redeem the contradictory nature of her person. Take, for instance, the fact that her husband has committed adultery and she says it’s a sin and can’t fathom that idea. But she had an ice cream man fondle her while also lusting after a new man, and that’s funny, so I guess it’s okay.
The film champions Tammy’s stupidity, mining it for laughs and deriving the heart of her character out of her lack of knowledge. Her insolence knows no bounds, spitting on fast food on her way out of her firing and calling people assholes when they don’t deserve it. That’s not a very likable character. She mistakes Cheetos for Lay’s, patterns for both pairs and galaxies (I know that makes no sense, but Tammy thinks it does), and doesn’t know who Mark Twain is. The character’s obliviousness to life around her is unnerving in how much joy the writing couple finds in it. The alcoholism at the heart of Pearl’s character is also offensively drawn, mined for laughs because drinking excessively and ruining your life is funny! When the story attempts to redeem the character, it never feels sincere. Neither does Kathy Bates’s lesbian character in the second half, who acts as a sage that delivers wisdom while also liking to blow stuff up. Tammy may be nonsensical and derivative, but it’s also unexpectedly something else: painfully unfunny.
Grade: ★½ (out of 5)