Melissa McCarthy plays an oblivious yet overconfident and deluded twit in 'Tammy.' (Michael Tackett / Warner Bros. Pictures)
“Tammy” is a road trip movie that veers all over the place.
Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes not so much. It makes sharp turns toward weepiness, flaunts ridiculous situations and unlikely relationships and depends almost completely on the loveability of its title character.
Which is a problem in that Tammy, played by Melissa McCarthy, is, at best, an oblivious, yet overconfident, deluded twit who nevertheless feels both entitled and downtrodden. It’s hard to pinpoint anything redeeming about her character; you only feel sympathy for her because the movie implies you should.
Sorry, movie, it doesn’t work that way.
Ah, but then maybe it does. Because McCarthy is on a Hollywood roll. She broke through as a supporting character in “Bridesmaids” and then continued her box office success with “Identity Thief” and “The Heat,” all while carrying the hit TV show “Mike & Molly.” She’s everybody’s favorite funnywoman of the minute. You’re supposed to laugh — and love her — just because you’re seeing her.
So as sloppy, haphazard and lazy as this film is, it could still be a huge hit. But McCarthy has to be aware she’s veering dangerously close to Adam Sandler territory here.
As the film begins, we know little about Tammy’s background and things pretty much stay that way. She’s driving to work at a fast food place when she hits a deer (ha-ha!).
When she arrives at work late, her boss (McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone, who directs and wrote the script with her) fires her. She throws a typically outrageous McCarthy snit.
Upon getting home, she finds out her husband (Nat Faxon) is having an affair, or at least dinner, with another woman (Toni Collette). Tammy storms out, walks two doors down and sets off on a road trip with her ailing, alcoholic floozy of a grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon).
Adventures ensue. The first one involves Tammy on a jet ski and is indicative of the script’s laziness. The sight of Tammy on the jet ski is the entire joke. The punch line is that, for no reason at all, Tammy crashes the jet ski into a dock. There’s no set-up or reason, she just crashes because wouldn’t it be funny to watch a fat woman crash a jet ski into a dock?
That’s right — I used the F word. Because let’s face it, McCarthy uses her size — never alluded to, which is part of the joke — for effect. Which is a long tradition in comedy, from Oliver Hardy to John Candy, and in some ways, McCarthy has made a breakthrough for the female side of that equation.
What’s disturbing, though, is McCarthy has found success playing mostly nitwits, slobs, lowlifes and losers like Tammy. She’s embracing every dark stereotype about overweight people. It’s a habit she might want to reconsider.
No such reconsideration goes on in the film. The boozy Pearl — aren’t old drunks hilarious? — takes up with a farmer (Gary Cole), Tammy flirts with his son (Mark Duplass) and somehow everybody ends up at a lesbian Fourth of July party (lesbians also being somehow inherently funny).
Which is where the film takes a sudden right-hand turn into unexpected vitriol and weepy self-examination.
Like Sandler, McCarthy may be able to build an ongoing empire on cheap comedy. But as she’s shown in many supporting roles, she has the potential to be so much more.
She can’t be a whole lot less than she is in “Tammy.”
Rated R for language including sexual references
Running time: 96 minutes