Tasteless “Tammy”: Or, “When Louise Had a Granddaughter”

Melissa McCarthy’s new film contains a few small comedic morsels drowning in a lethal concoction of booze, adultery, and stupidity

Susan Sarandon and Melissa McCarthy star in scene from movie 'Tammy'.

Susan Sarandon and Melissa McCarthy star in scene from movie

MPAA Rating: R
Reel Rating: (2 Reels out of 5)

Although Melissa McCarthy’s most creative work is starring as the sweet and gentle better half of Mike & Molly, the actress is better known as a foul-mouthed piece of work in films such as Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Identity Thief. In Tammy, McCarthy plays a character who is at her lowest point after being fired unjustly from her low wage, fast food job and discovering her husband Greg (Nat Faxon) cheating in the same afternoon. In order to clear her head, Tammy goes on a whirlwind road trip with her equally rambunctious grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon).

Tammy contains some really funny moments, especially involving Tammy and Pearl, but these are just a few small morsels drowning in a lethal concoction of booze, adultery, and a host of other bad behaviors. It’s an occasionally amusing film but not a particularly memorable one.

Her life in tatters, Tammy tries to borrow her mother’s (Allison Janney) car to go “somewhere.” When she refuses, her grandma, already packed, supplies the car and $6,700—provided she gets to tag along. (I’m surprised Geena Davis didn’t also tag along.) Along the way, the two women engage in drunk driving, fighting minors, and bonding over broken stories of the past until Tammy needs money to bail Pearl out of jail.

Then, in the movie’s funniest scene, Tammy attempts to rob from her former employer. “Do you want to die?” Tammy growls at an elderly burger flipper through a paper bag mask. “I’m a veteran,” he responds. Tammy is taken aback: “Really? Well, thank you for your service.”

Tammy doesn’t get any tough love or sage advice until she meets Pearl’s cousin Lenore (Kathy Bates). “You have to work hard,” she growls. “You can’t just bitch and moan and expect life to give you things.” It’s the kick in the pants she needs but no one has given her. She does have the courage to admit her mistakes and move on.

The most troubling aspect of Tammy is the casual treatment of sexuality, although “fun” drunk driving without consequences is no better. Characters with redeeming qualities are in short supply. Tammy rightly criticizes her husbands for committing adultery, yet immediately hooks up with Bobby (Mark Duplass). And how does she meet this Bobby? His father, also still married, is having an affair with Pearl after she kicked Tammy out of their hotel room for a one night stand. Probably the most stable couple is Lenore (Kathy Bates) and her partner Susanne (Sandra Oh) who hosts a lesbian Fourth of July celebration that includes the ceremonious burning of a jet ski and Pearl flashing everyone while plastered.

The McCarthy and Sarandon pairing have moments of chemistry but it is hampered by how they constantly berate each other. In a closing scene, Pearl gets drunk—again—after promising Tammy not to and gives an obscenity-laced monologue where she calls Tammy a “cheeseburger” and blames her for Greg’s infidelity. It goes too far, and even though Pearl apologizes when sober, it still stings. Their reconciliation isn’t well earned or believable.

There is a funny little movie inside Tammy but it’s hidden in a grease-stained McDonalds’s bag. In The Heat, McCarthy and Bullock shared much better chemistry because their characters were more developed and funnier, and they began to genuinely care for each other as the film unfolded. In Tammy, there are only sad people behaving badly; the audience is supposed to like some and hate others, but really we just end up being mostly indifferent to everyone involved.

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About Nick Olszyk 185 Articles
Nick Olszyk teaches theology at Marist Catholic High School in Eugene, Oregon. He was raised on bad science fiction movies, jelly beans, and TV shows that make fun of bad science fiction movies. Visit him online at his website, Catholic Cinema Crusade.