Melissa McCarthy as Tammy
Susan Sarandon as Pearl
Mark Duplass as Bobby
Kathy Bates as Lenore
Allison Janney as Deb
Gary Cole as Earl
Sandra Oh as Susanne
Toni Collette as Missi
Nat Faxon as Greg
Ben Falcone as Keith
Dan Aykroyd as Don
Directed by Ben Falcone
Here’s the thing about movie marketing; it’s designed to get you into the theater which means it lies through its teeth, normally by showing off only the best elements of the film to suggest (truthfully or not) that the entire film is going to be like that. But there is one bit of truth you can take to the bank – if even the marketers can’t find anything in the film to show to you to get you to want to see it, you know there’s something wrong with it. I tell you all of that to tell you this: all of the trailers and ads for “Tammy” so far have been for one scene at the end of the second act when she puts on a burger bag face mask and knocks over a fast food place. Who is she? Why does she do such things? Who cares, the marketing says, you won’t care once you find out, so why should we bother telling you?
For once, the ad guys are being completely honest.
If you’re at all curious (and trust me, you’re not), Tammy (McCarthy) is the saddest of sad sacks, an under-achieving loser who starts off her day hitting a deer while digging around in her backseat for chapstick while driving, and then watching it go downhill from there. Which would almost make you feel sorry for if she didn’t take everything that comes her way with a spectacular ill-grace that has you quickly suspecting she set herself up for much of what she has gotten. A suspicion which is quickly confirmed when she walks next door to her mother’s house and absconds with her grandmother, her grandmother’s car and her grandmother’s money to… somewhere.
The plot’s not really the point, though. The point, from McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone (they co-wrote the script which Falcone directs), is McCarthy’s felicity with loud-mouthed, big personality losers who eventually force you to fall in love with her effervescent charm. After several films of basically repeating that formula, McCarthy and Falcone have taken it to its zenith and the result is a mess.
Yes, Tammy is meant to be unlikeable and in that she succeeds mightily. Making a film featuring an intentionally unlikeable hero is a difficult thing. You basically have to be charming as hell or completely aware of and content in your douchebaggery to pull it off. Tammy is many things, but self-aware is not one of them. Tammy is intensely, purposefully, unlikeable built from the perfect blend of jerk wad parts – she’s slow and has very low self-esteem which she covers up by being extremely loud and obnoxious so that no one notices how much she doesn’t like herself. That’s about as interesting to watch as it sounds.
Unfortunately, the film has no particular plot to hide behind; it’s built around the hijinks of Tammy and wanting to spend time watching them. Once she and her grandmother (Sarandon) hit the road, most of said hijinks are built around a predictable pattern of Tammy making a bad decision but doing so with gusto until it (very, very) predictably blows up in her face, which she tries to toss of with bluster. It’s not so much inviting you to laugh at her as getting down on its hands and knees and groveling with you to laugh.
There’s supposed to be some sort of character examination in there, about why Tammy is how she is and tied it is to her family, particularly the alcoholic grandmother she grew up with who is using the trip (such as it is) as an excuse to get out from under her daughter and get back to drinking. But by the time you get the heart-to-heart talk when Tammy realizes she must grow up, it becomes clear there’s nothing here but set ups for McCarthy to theoretically hit out of the park.
“Tammy” is a thoroughly unpleasant film about thoroughly unpleasant people doing unpleasant things which will mainly just make you wish someone would put Tammy out of her misery, or at least ours.