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Review: Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon find the laughs in ‘Tammy’

Tammy

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Melissa McCarthy has had a streak of hits in recent years. Ever since stealing scene after scene in Bridesmaids she has been a highly bankable comedy star. In 2013 she led two solid box office showings in The Heat, which co-starred Sandra Bullock and earned $160 million in the U.S. and Canada, as well as the less-well-received, but still highly bankable, Identity Thief, which clocked in at $134 million. Her latest effort, Tammy, which hits theaters on July 2, finds her playing a character that is somewhat reminiscent of her turn in Identity Thief; but, thanks in large part to McCarthy’s comedic spirit and a huge dose of awesome from Susan Sarandon, Tammy manages to find plenty of laughs in well-trodden territory.

SUSAN SARANDON as Pearl and MELISSA McCARTHY as Tammy in New Line Cinema's comedy "TAMMY," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
SUSAN SARANDON as Pearl and MELISSA McCARTHY as Tammy in New Line Cinema's comedy "TAMMY," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.Michael Tackett / © 2014 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.

In Tammy, which she co-wrote with husband Ben Falcone, who takes the helm as director, we join McCarthy’s titular character at the beginning of a very bad day. Quite quickly her commute to her job at a Topper Jack’s fast food restaurant turns unpleasant as she totals her beater car. When she arrives at the restaurant battered and distressed-looking her manager (Ben Falcone) notes only that she’s late, and unceremoniously fires her. To cap it all off, she walks home only to find her husband (Nat Faxon) enjoying a romantic dinner with a pretty neighbor (Toni Collette). Understandably, Tammy hastily packs a bag and decamps to her parent’s house. Determined to hit the road, but unable to do so without some funding, and therefore companionship, from her feisty, boozy grandmother Pearl, (Susan Sarandon), the film quickly becomes an odd-couple road movie. That set-up may not be a novel one, but with the kind of talent McCarthy and Sarandon bring to the equation it never hampers the film. Rather, audiences will find themselves catapulted along a romp that finds them engaging in all manner of hijinks, with the occasional pause for some rather surprisingly poignant moments amid the easy humor.

McCarthy uses the blend of brashness, quickfire bawdiness and physical comedy that is fast becoming her trademark to typically great effect here––few among us can maintain a straight face as she rolls invisible dice to amp herself up for a robbery or fires a whole arsenal of attitude at her manager or delivers lines that speak to what a player she is--“You better get a pen and paper, ‘cause it’s gonna be a godd*mn clinic"--in earnest. Tammy is the kind of character McCarthy has played before, and played well, so she’s playing to her strengths here, but we’re not finding any cause for complaint with that––though it would be welcome to see her flex her considerable comedic muscles in a wholly new way.

As fun as it is to watch McCarthy to do her thing, the award for the most delightfully outrageous lady in the picture has to go to Susan Sarandon. We rarely get to see Sarandon tackle characters that really know how to cut-loose, but if Grandma Pearl is any indication, she should take these kinds of roles on a lot more often. She manages to make Pearl zany without making her a caricature, bawdy without being low-brow and feisty without losing her power to emote.

Sandra Oh, Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Mark Duplass and Gary Cole round out a cast that is packed to the gills with star power and evidently having a fantastic time.

What it lacks in innovation, Tammy makes up for with strong performances from a stellar cast and plenty of laughs for moviegoers looking to beat the heat with some light-hearted, off-the-wall comedy.