Tammy
Director: Ben Falcone
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates
97 mins; Class 15; KRS Releasing Ltd

After a solid career on the comedy circuit, Melissa McCarthy’s breakout role in 2011’s Bridesmaids heralded many great things. Yet ever since, the comedian seems to be stuck in a series of clumsy, crass roles which may have raised a few laughs but have not had the same impact as her funnier, and definitely more subtle, Oscar-nominated role.

Here, McCarthy stars, produces and co-writes (with her husband Ben Falcone, who also directs) as the titular Tammy, a down-on-her-luck woman who decides to take off by herself after she hits a deer that destroys her car. She also loses her job and finds out her husband is having an affair – all in the same afternoon. Car-less and cashless, she grudgingly accepts her grandmother Pearl’s (Susan Sarandon) offer of both car and cash… on condition that Tammy takes her with her. And so the two women take off on a road trip, much to the chagrin of Tammy’s mother Deb (Allison Janney).

It must be said that hidden within Tammy is a feel-good comedy that is however smothered by the script falling back on the same old comedy chestnuts that clearly fall within McCarthy’s comfort zone.

A feel-good comedy that is smothered by the script

The opening scenes seem to recreate the character she played in Identity Thief (2013), so loud, rude and obnoxious that it is impossible to root for her at the outset. Her behaviour is predictable, and in some cases questionable. McCarthy has, in fact, invited criticism for falling back on lazy, loud and fat woman stereotypes when she clearly has what it takes to find the funny in other less obvious material.

The actress has amply proven to be funny, talented, droll, dry and, in the few moments of genuine hilarity the film offers, she hits each comedic note perfectly, while handling some of the quieter moments with some genuine heart.

Another major quibble I have with the film is its casting. McCarthy is 43; Janney, who plays her mother Deb, is 54; and Susan Sarandon, who plays Deb’s mother and Tammy’s grandmother, is 67. Not that I have any objections as to the casting of the latter two, both superb actors whom I greatly admire. But I found the age difference, or lack thereof, between the three characters was too noticeable to ignore.

Sarandon’s presence and the film’s premise evokes Thelma and Louise… and the screenplay features scenes which feel blatantly copied from the seminal 1991 film in which she co-starred with Geena Davis – Tammy and Pearl having drinks in the honky-tonk bar and the impromptu hold-up, to name but two – similarities that invite unfavourable comparisons.

That said, the unflattering grey wig, grossly swollen ankles and all, Sarandon does steal each scene she is in, skilfully balancing the comedy and the drama to create the film’s truly memorable character.

Rounding off the cast are Kathy Bates and Sandra Oh as a loving lesbian couple, Gary Cole as Earl, an aging lothario, and Mark Duplass as Bobby, Earl’s son, an interest-ing character who sees the good side in Tammy much earlier than audience members.

The underlying premise of a woman bonding with grandma and learning some important life lessons along the way kicks in at a point we are a little tired of the character and her all too predictable pratfalls.