After watching the trailer for “Tammy,” it’s easy to feel sorry for actress Melissa McCarthy. Since her star turn in the outrageous “Bridesmaids,” McCarthy has been saddled with thankless roles. Hollywood, it seems, wants to keep her playing brassy and obnoxious characters, at least on the big screen.
That’s one big reason why this film comes as such a joyous surprise. The Tammy robbing a fast food joint in the previews bears little resemblance to the character itself. That clumsy robbery is in the final cut, but the trailer takes it totally out of context. In truth, Tammy is a pretty decent lady who is just having a bad day.
The same can’t be said for her philandering husband Greg (Nat Faxon), however. After discovering he’s having an affair with a neighbor, Tammy borrows her mom’s car to get out of town. What she doesn’t count on, though, is having Grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon) tag along. Pearl’s got a sizeable bankroll, so the two of them head for Niagara Falls.
Director Ben Falcone knows his wife is a lovely lady, and he wisely shows the real Melissa McCarthy in this comedy. In one scene, Tammy puts on some flattering clothes, showing the beauty that movies like “The Heat” buried under a heap of profanity.
Turning the outrageousness down does wonders for the film as well. McCarthy plays it straight in many scenes, especially when Pearl does the wild thing with Earl (Gary Cole), the guy she meets in a bar. Forced to wait outside their car, Tammy makes small talk with Earl’s son Bobby (Mark Duplass) as their relatives fog up the windows.
“Tammy” is the first movie that gives the actress a chance to strut her stuff. Director Falcone and his wife explore the character, showing the legitimate reasons she has for being angry. “Identity Thief,” an earlier comedy, had some of those moments, but not nearly enough to overcome the crassness of that film.
Three cheers for Falcone and McCarthy because “Tammy” is a winner. This is the kind of movie that McCarthy should make and the sort of role she’s best suited for. There is, of course, a generous helping of raunchy behavior, but the actress rises above it. Here’s hoping this dynamic duo comes up with something even better next time.
“Tammy,” rated R for language, including sexual references, currently is playing in theaters.