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Movie Review: 'Tammy' (2014) Starring Melissa McCarthy

Though most are of a repetitive nature, “Tammy” has its funny moments, with knockabout comedy and offbeat conversations capable of drawing laughs. What detracts from the merriment is the film’s need to kowtow to morals and lessons that are both generic and too heavy for the eccentric characters. “Life isn’t fair” adages, self-betterment truisms, and the struggles for equality breathe a solemn tone into “Tammy,” while a sobering examination of alcoholism, brushes with the law, and even death create such a somber atmosphere that inserts of wacky humor barely bring the mood around. Standout sequences of oddball prankishness, such as Tammy’s inept restaurant robbery, only lighten spirits momentarily before either weighty drama or revisited jokes crash the party.

Down-on-her-luck fast food employee Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) can’t seem to catch a break. After a deer totals her car, she’s fired from her job, and she catches her husband (Nat Faxon) cheating with the next door neighbor (Toni Collette), Tammy has finally had enough and hits the road with her irreverent, alcoholic grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon). Their attempt to visit Niagara Falls is delayed when the duo meets Earl (Gary Cole) and his son Bobby (Mark Duplass), along with subsequent mishaps that find Tammy resorting to illegal activities. But as the two run from the police and contend with one another’s clashing attitudes, they land headfirst into an adventure of a lifetime.

The concept of an underdog lead character unveiling one disaster after another (relationships, careers, transportation, money, possessions) until an already middling life has been upended and disheveled into loony-bin unbearableness is nothing new. To make that main role a female is similarly unoriginal. And even to cast Melissa McCarthy isn’t as fresh as it once was (her part is very similar to her turn in “Identity Thief”). Although Sarandon as a mouthy souse is an amusing sidekick, and McCarthy taking screenwriting credit for penning a story for herself is a congratulatory next step in her career, “Tammy” is so terribly devoid of singular ideas that its pieces can be clearly seen in just about every other mainstream comedy of the last few years (“Bridesmaids” and “Girl Most Likely” are prime influencers).

Despite a CG deer sullying the first minute of screentime, and the usual fat jokes, slapstick, and expletive-saturated insults that follow, there’s mild fun to be had in this by-the-books road movie. It’s of the hopelessly standard variety, however, gorged on booze abuse, unintelligence, dares, familial bonding, the sharing of pitiable stories exaggerated to goofy excesses, and the bittersweet romance of an overweight girl in desperate need of a cold dose of reality. She gets more medicine than she can handle with repeated blows to her confidence, relationship failures, general rejection, and risky shenanigans that morph into criminal ordeals. With a skewed sense of morality, in which she depressingly pays for her comic crimes in a world devoid of Hollywood glamor, the film claims that Tammy is forever capable of capturing her own American Dream, complete with fairy tale love. But the script comes off as a drama embellished with comedy instead of the fun-loving comedy with a hint of drama that it intends to be, resulting in a confused execution that detrimentally hinders its ability to make a lasting impression in either category.

- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)