[Screen It]


(2014) (Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon) (R)

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Comedy: After she is fired from her job and learns her husband is cheating on her, a down-on-her-luck woman takes off on a road trip with her alcoholic grandmother.
Tammy (MELISSA McCARTHY) is a down-on-her-luck woman who has just been fired from her go-nowhere, fast-food job and has come home to find that her husband, Greg (NAT FAXON), is cheating on her with their next-door neighbor, Missi (TONI COLLETTE). Distraught, she vows to leave town and never return. Unfortunately, she has hit a deer with her car and her mother, Deb (ALLISON JANNEY), won't let her borrow her car.

She decides to hit the road with her profane, alcoholic grandmother Pearl (SUSAN SARANDON), who has a wad of cash and a gassed-up Cadillac. Together, the two get into a series of loosely connected misadventures, including: crashing a jet-ski into a pier; picking up Earl (GARY COLE) and Bobby (MARK DUPLASS), a father and son in a Louisville barbecue eatery; getting arrested for disorderly conduct outside of a liquor store; and holding up a restaurant for bail money.

Bad vibes between Tammy and Pearl come to a head at a lesbian 4th of July party at their cousin, Lenore's (KATHY BATES) and her girlfriend Susanne's (SANDRA OH) house. Pearl gets disturbingly drunk, and Tammy is finally forced to make choices that will affect what direction her life takes from there on out.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
In "Bridesmaids," "Identity Thief," and "The Heat," Melissa McCarthy proved that she is willing to do anything for a laugh. In "Tammy," maybe she should have re-thought that. Once again, she plays a crass, profane, vanity-free character who drinks hard, eats hard, and lives life hard. But we suspect there may be something deeper at work here as McCarthy produced and co-wrote the film with her husband, Ben Falcone, who also directed it. And as the opening credits continue to flash across the screen, we see such names as Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, Oscar winner Kathy Bates, Emmy winner Allison Janney, and so forth.

And sure enough, "Tammy" eventually works its way around to delivering some effective dramatic moments in its third act. The problem is the film is so vulgar and broadly played in its first half that it's hard to shift gears and take it all seriously in the end. For much of the film's running time, we're supposed to laugh at the drunken antics of the title character's profane grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon). Grandma picks up Gary Cole in a honky-tonk and has a one-night stand with him. Grandma drives her Cadillac from her passenger seat while McCarthy's Tammy rides on the hood. Grandma buys some underage teenagers alcohol at a liquor store, then punches one of the kids out.

Then late in the film, suddenly the characters acknowledge, "Uh, Grandma is a raging alcoholic and needs help." It's almost like the film points a 3-D finger out at the audience and says, "How dare you laugh at her hijinks earlier! Couldn't you tell we were going to go in this direction?!" Well, uh, no. Similarly, Tammy is presented as the biggest loser early on. She gets fired, her husband cheats on her, she's obnoxious to everyone around her. Oh, but no. She's really a wounded heart with low self-esteem. Laugh at her crassness ... er, until we decide to make her a real human being.

But when these characters become human beings, you do start to see what the film could have been. And then you just realize that a lot of the broad humor was put in to cut trailers and commercials and get people into seats because they weren't confident they could get them in otherwise.

McCarthy stars as Tammy, a down-on-her-luck woman who takes to the road with her boozy grandmother for a dream trip to Niagara Falls. One problem. Tammy drives completely the wrong way from Illinois to Kentucky. While there, they pick up two guys in a bar/restaurant and attend their lesbian's cousin 4th of July party. And, uh, that's about all that happens in the flick! It's a largely plot-less road movie where even the destination is ... eh, not that important.

But it DOES end well. And Kathy Bates as Tammy's lesbian cousin and Mark Duplass as the nice guy who falls for her anchor the film's second half and bring some sorely needed class to the production. The more they're on screen, the more watchable the film becomes. A little more confidence from all concerned would have worked wonders for this movie just like it eventually does for the Tammy character. I rate it a 4.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed June 30, 2014 / Posted July 2, 2014

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