Plot: After losing her job and catching her husband (Nat Faxon) cheating on her, Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) goes on a road trip with her alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon) to Niagara Falls.
The dramedy is the hardest genre to pull off in film. When your producers are Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, they certainly aren’t the right people to steer that ship. And yes, you heard right – Tammy is a dramedy. The trailer wants you to think this is the dumbest and silliest movie of the summer, and while you definitely get some of that, it’s a lot more serious than you are meant to believe. Even though the comedic and dramatic elements don’t mix well together, I was relieved to get this movie as opposed to what I thought I was going to get.
The first fifteen minutes are exactly what the trailer promises. The first scene shows Tammy singing to old school rock, shoving her face with Doritos, she hits a deer, and then almost gives it mouth to mouth. The next two scenes are nothing but pratfalls and Melissa McCarthy shouting every line of dialogue. At this point, I sank in my seat and submitted to the fact that I was about to watch the worst movie of the year. There comes a point though where Susan Sarandon pops into frame out of no where, and this is where the film completely shifts. While it doesn’t become a good movie, it became an okay movie.
You strongly dislike Tammy at first, but the film wants you to love her. That’s a movie pet peeve of mine. As we watch the relationship between Tammy and her grandmother though, you really start to buy into their chemistry as both characters actually become endearing. Tammy is still annoying, but definitely more likable. Sarandon really does save this movie. Not only is she funnier than Melissa McCarthy, but her character is effectively heartbreaking. Both characters are good foils, because while they get along a lot, the moments of contention are just as compelling. There’s one scene in particular where Sarandon’s character (Pearl) gets really drunk and starts insulting Tammy. I have to give McCarthy and Sarandon credit, because this is a powerful moment between the two characters.
As we get to like Tammy more, she starts a romantic infatuation with Bobby, played by Mark Duplass (The League). I really enjoyed how their relationship developed over the course of the film. You get the wrong impression of Bobby at first in regards to his thoughts on Tammy, but as the film goes on, their chemistry works on all levels. Melissa McCarthy actually wrote this movie along with Ben Falcone, and the relationship between these two characters was very well written.
While Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon are certainly the stand outs, there’s plenty of solid cameos. Kathy Bates is pretty funny as Pearl’s lesbian cousin, and she gives Tammy a speech in the middle of the film that made me want to cheer. Gary Cole and Dan Aykroyd also pop up, and it’s always nice to see them.
I’ve been talking pretty positive about this movie, and while I do think there’s a lot to like, it ultimately falls flat because of the tug of war between drama and silly comedy. This is what drives me crazy about dramedies. How am I supposed to take the dramatic elements seriously when there are scenes of Tammy trying to give a deer mouth to mouth, or crashing into a dock on a jet ski? The tone doesn’t work. I feel like the writers wanted to tell a more serious story with light comedic touches, but the studio shoehorned in the Melissa McCarthy-isms to appease to the people who would most likely see this movie. The two sides are definitely at odds with each other. If they had cut all the silly crap that serves no purpose, this could have been a lot stronger. I didn’t laugh a lot in this movie, but the moments that did work were the more subtle moments, not the Melissa McCarthy yelling/falling down scenes.
While this was certainly better then I thought it was going to be, it’s way too uneven for me to call this a good movie. The ending wraps up pretty nicely, and I give McCarthy credit. There were a lot of forces working against her, but she tried to deliver something different than what she normally does. There’s a good Melissa McCarthy movie out there, I just haven’t seen it yet.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (‘meh’)
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.