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'Tammy': If you liked 'The Descendants' then by all means try it

Susan Sarandon mentors another naive road buddy
Susan Sarandon mentors another naive road buddy
Warner Bros.



I had a very different piece prepared for "Tammy", and deliberately waited a day after opening to post it since I figured I’d want to chime in with a little defense work. But what’s happening today is horrendous. And by the way, the film is fine. Just fine.

Co-written by Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone (who became accidental superstars as Megan and Air Marshall Jon in "Bridesmaids"), starring the former and directed by the latter, "Tammy" is being roundly trounced the public square, which is a grave injustice to their talent – and if I have to appeal to readers’ self-interest to make this matter, then I can say in no uncertain terms that if "Tammy" is allowed to sink based on this reception, then one must forever hold one’s peace when inclined to say, “There’s a whole lotta crap out there.”

Because the film is fine. Just fine.

McCarthy created an inimitable sensation with "Bridesmaids". We’d seen nothing like Megan before, which of course meant that McCarthy was at real risk of having to play Megan again ("Identity Thief")… and again ("The Heat")… and again ("The Heat 2"), until we tire completely and discard her, dismissing McCarthy as a one-trick pony in the process.

Welcome to "Tammy". And because McCarthy co-wrote it, she’s going to take even more grief, as if she can’t even write her own Megan.

Don’t you believe it, and don’t you participate in it. I’m not, and I’m going to the mat with this one.

For the public now to harbor a low opinion of McCarthy and Falcone would be a grave injustice to their considerable talent, and possibly even be a setback to their careers. And here the fault is not theirs for making a so-called uninspired misfire, nor it is the public’s for its ire at not receiving what was promised. The fault sits squarely at the doorstep of the Hollywood marketing machine.

Because you see, "Tammy" comes not from the deliciously ribald, raucous tradition of "Bridesmaids" et al, but rather from the gentle, reflective, surprise-knockout-punch lineage of Alexander Payne.

We’ll just stick to the Academy Awards for the next part here. Too long to go into Golden Globes, BAFTAs, etc., etc. And etc.

Alexander Payne: projects include the well-feted Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates, Bruce Dern, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney, and Reese Witherspoon; Oscar nominated for writing for "Election" and "Sideways"; nominated for directing for "Sideways", "Nebraska", and "The Descendants"; nominated for best picture for "The Descendants". Won for writing for "The Descendants" with co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

Nat Faxon and Jim Rash: won the Oscar for writing for "The Descendants", and together went on to co-write and co-direct "The Way Way Back", an unmitigated uber-charmer starring the well-feted Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, Maya Rudolph, and Allison Janney, sporting the best last twenty minutes since "The Shawshank Redemption".

And now we have "Tammy", and a promising new troupe in McCarthy and Falcone, who are joined by the well-feted Nat Faxon, Kathy Bates, Susan Sarandon, Toni Collette, and Allison Janney.

And what was I going to say about "Tammy" in the original piece? That sure, McCarthy’s playing Megan once again, but probably had to in order to get her project funded because the studio insists on the automatic bank and public inability to accept someone in a role other than the favorite, however gratifying it may be (am I the only one who saw "The Nines"??).

That all you have to do is try to meet Tammy as a fresh character, refrain from comparisons as best you can. That if you can do that, you'll have a decent time. That Ben Falcone’s directorial style is professional, crisp, energetic, and friendly, and that I’d sign up for more of it anytime.

That the cast and crew is tons of fun and interesting to track in pairs and combos, including Sandra Oh from "Sideways" (and at one time in a marriage with Alexander Payne). That it’s filled with affectionate nods to previous work, including honky-tonk celebrations and blowing up of vehicles ("Thelma and Louise") and a road trip odyssey of confrontation and self-revelation complete with Kathy Bates and a motor home ("About Schmidt").

That McCarthy and Falcone did a terrific job of working within the marketing constraints to which they were no doubt subjected, and hit the goal of putting themselves on the map as viable and follow-worthy filmmakers in their own rights.

That’s what I was going to say. But now, I say I almost don’t care whether or not you see "Tammy" (though it’s soulful and funny and you should), but just go online and buy a ticket. Support the film. Show some solidarity with McCarthy and Falcone. Contribute ten bucks to the common cinematic good.

The world needs more compassionate yet steel-backboned films like this community is producing, and if McCarthy and Falcone get dinged in any way, we are all diminished.

If "Tammy" doesn’t make money, the studio has no one but itself to blame. But let’s not punish McCarthy and Falcone as well.

Because the film is fine.

Story: When life piles down on Tammy in a single day, she decides to leave it all behind and hit the road - in her grandmother's car, which she can only borrow if her grandmother comes with it.

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Mark Duplass, Gary Cole, Dan Aykroyd, Nat Faxon, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Ben Falcone

Directed by: Ben Falcone


Running time: 96 minutes

Houston release date: July 2, 2014

Tickets: Check or your local listings

Screened June 30th 2014 at the Edwards Marq*E theater in Houston TX

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