Never lambaste local productions. That’s advice I neither requested nor heeded to. The general intent of this guidance is to avoid alienating locals. In this case, it protects the film industry, which currently runs at a fever pitch with countless TV shows and movies in production—at least until NC’s shitty conservative leadership bludgeon incentives to death and drive out the film business in an exodus that will rival the crossing of the Red Sea.
I never liked the idea of sugarcoating; crap is crap no matter where it’s made. A critic should let you know when you’re about to watch something terrible. “Tammy” was produced right here in Wilmington but it’s awful. Actually, awful isn’t harsh enough—“Tammy” is the cinematic equivalent of a bowel movement.
I want to like Melissa McCarthy. She succeeds when effectively used in movies like “Bridesmaids,” with her blunt honesty and foul mouth delivered in small portions. “Tammy” skips the idea of healthy portions and ladles on a heaping helping of foul-mouthed dumbery into every scene. For the record, I don’t know if “dumbery” is actually a word. If not it will be birthed into existence: a new word to describe just how terrible the character Tammy is.
The plot comes generic as hell. Tammy discovers her husband has romantic intentions toward another woman. After watching the character for 10 minutes, I completely understand why. I don’t know if we’re supposed to feel bad for Tammy when we learn her husband has been emotionally unfaithful. I, however, side with him. Watching McCarthy spit venom and string together obscenities with the impulse control of an ADD-addled 8-year-old assaults the senses.
Out of money, out of luck and with no prospects, Tammy jumps at the first opportunity to get out of town. Her grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), seeks adventure and has a wad of saved cash. They take off and encounter a string of road-movie clichés, which give McCarthy ample opportunity to do funny things like ride a WaveRunner and rob a fast-food restaurant. Along the way, they meet Earl and his son who become the defacto love interests for Tammy and Pearl. Movies like this require this kind of plot development. It’s about as organic as the pink stuff McDonalds uses to construct chicken nuggets.
“Tammy” is a weird experience. A sweet, heartwarming story attempts to emerge, and there are some really good actors at play. Sarandon thrives in her role. Gary Cole (“Talladega Nights,” “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law”) always brings a lot of energy. Mark Duplass charms and generates laughs. Unfortunately, every earnest attempt is nullified by the foul-mouthed, utterly-unlikable dunce played by McCarthy. It’s like viewing two films not only at odds with one another but duking it out for dominance. Imagine watching a nice, independent drama about drifting through life and the simple pleasures we don’t appreciate being interrupted by Larry the Cable Guy strutting into frame and cutting a fart loud enough to split glass.
“Tammy” could be salvageable had the creative team even entertained the phrase “reigning it in.” But McCarthy has become a big star, which allows her to swing for the fences. The movie needs a softer touch. Even though Tammy eventually is given some sandpaper for her rough edges, it’s like watering down acid. She still irritates the senses.
McCarthy’s only rival this summer for “most destructive monster” is Godzilla, and I think she’s capable of doing more damage. I have no problem with actors playing loud, obnoxious and unlikable characters, but in “Tammy” it’s grating. It’s like Tammy doesn’t belong in “Tammy.” McCarthy’s a cartoon playing at a style, speed and volume that drowns out everything else. It’s the kind of fundamental mistake that spoils an entire enterprise.
“Tammy” feels like a movie made by college students funding their first feature; it reeks of amateurism. Good intentions litter the road-movie, but I’ll be damned if I enjoyed any of it. Tammy polarizes as a love-her-or-hate-her breed of character, and I hated her with a passion.
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon and Mark Duplass
Directed by Ben Falcone