Someday, Melissa McCarthy will find the perfect star vehicle to showcase her talents. Today is not that day. Tammy, the latest in a series of misfires featuring McCarthy as a foul-mouthed, irresponsible louse, is spectacularly unfunny. It's the kind of movie where afterward the filmmakers sit around a table asking, "What went wrong?" and everyone shrugs their shoulders in embarrassment.
The sad thing is it's McCarthy's real-life husband, actor/writer/director Ben Falcone, who leads her astray. As the film opens, McCarthy's Tammy stuffs Doritos into her mouth as she's driving and hits a deer. The next time I laugh at an animal abuse joke will be the first. McCarthy, who co-wrote the film with Falcone, should've known from her participation in The Hangover Part III that car accidents with animals are never funny.
With her car a wreck, Tammy shows up late for work at a fast-food restaurant and is fired. According to Tammy, her boss (Falcone) is being a jerk, though anyone with a half a brain will realize she should've been fired long ago. Upon arriving home, Tammy sees her husband (Nat Faxon) having a romantic dinner with their neighbor (Toni Collette), so Tammy leaves in a huff. She stomps a few houses down the street to her mother's (Allison Janney) place, where she finds little comfort or help, except from her grandma, Pearl (Susan Sarandon).
With an agreement that they leave town together, Pearl, a diabetic alcoholic nymphomaniac, allows Tammy to drive her car, and off they go. Soon Tammy breaks a jet ski, ruins the car, dances on her way into robbing a restaurant, and is arrested. Pearl meets a guy (Gary Gole) who'll take her to bed, though what his son (Mark Duplass) sees in Tammy is never clear.
Part of the problem is that McCarthy keeps playing a loser, and it doesn't suit her. Her characters, specifically here and in Identity Thief, do nothing to help themselves, and are reckless, negligent and obnoxious. They're hard to like. Even her detective in The Heat was odious. It's hard to laugh at someone's jokes when you don't like her.
The rest of the problem is the entire rest of the movie, starting with the two main characters. As Laurel and Hardy taught us, a good comedy duo needs to have a wacko and a straight person. Between Tammy and Pearl, we have two loose cannons, so there's no
one to ground the comedy. This means everything is crazy all the time, which gets tiresome quickly.
Worse, it's only rarely funny.
The story wanders aimlessly, just like the characters. Pearl says early on that she wants to see Niagara Falls, but she and Tammy are so intent on being misfits that we'd feel sorry for Niagara Falls if they made it. This is a road trip movie featuring the zany adventures of two criminals with no redeeming qualities.
Watching Tammy is the equivalent of McCarthy desperately flailing her arms for attention and not finding anyone who gives a damn. Now she needs to help herself by playing a different character. You can do it, Melissa. We still believe.