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Scott Roberts
on Jul 7, 2014 at 5:22:41 pm

After seeing the countless commercials and trailers for Tammy over the last few months, the biggest driving force for me to go see it was the simple question in my head: "What is the actual plot of this movie?" The marketing certainly doesn't give any indication of a grandiose plot element that drives the movie forward. Is there a plot? Or is this merely a showcase for Melissa McCarthy to do her (now) standard "oafish dumb lady" routine without constraint? When does she get mixed up with a nearly identical lady in the witness protection program and then unknowingly chased by the mob? Or when does she get confused as a rich socialite and has to pretend to be classy for a weekend? Surely this isn't just a movie about Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon driving places?

Sadly, it is confirmed: This is a plotless movie. The story and IMDb one-sentence tagline are exactly the same. "After losing her job and learning that her husband has been unfaithful, a woman hits the road with her profane, hard-drinking grandmother." All you'd need to do is add "Hijinx ensue" to the end of that and you'd have the script treatment.

I'm actually impressed that a wide release film with such pointlessness was released on Fourth of July weekend as if it were an event film or something. This was released in the week between Transformers 4 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. What? It had early screenings on Tuesday night? Why? Was a gritty retelling of Sinbad supposed to be released this week but it wasn't ready yet? Why hasn't there been a gritty version of Sinbad yet? Why haven't they cast Taylor Lautner as Sinbad? Why haven't they cast Al Pacino as the Old Man From the Sea? Why do they come to me to die? Why do they come to me to die...?

Describing what happens in this movie is like hearing an old guy with dementia shout random phrases on his death-bed while his children try to decipher what it all means. DEER CPR! GRANDMA! PIT STAINS! DANCING! STORE ROBBERY! LESBIAN PARTY! VIKING FUNERAL! JAIL! DAN AYKROYD! NIAGRA FALLS! We don't learn much of anything about the characters that we couldn't figure out after the first couple of scenes. Maybe they take the Grandma's alcoholism to some escalating places near the end, but never anywhere I would consider groundbreaking, and it certainly isn't a catalyst for any kind of turning point in the story that causes the entire movie to shift one way or another. She's a drunk, but she's a merely drunk existing in a single 90-minute comedy sketch. But even The Ladies Man and the Mary Katherine Gallagher movie had some sort of driving force introduced at the beginning of the second act that gives the character an agenda, a purpose, an angle... something...! Even the two or three "romantic comedy scenes" (can't think of a better way to put that) with Mark Duplass in Tammy were just frivolous excuses to introduce another character into the mix for McCarthy to act weird around. If it weren't so dumb, Tammy would have been a nice example of almost Jim Jarmusch-like story minimalism. Then she robs a restaurant for their apple pies.

Comedy is subjective and pointless to argue over what's legitimately funny or not. I, personally, only kinda chuckled a handful of times. I was somewhat entertained the entire time, but that may have been partly in amazement over the aimlessness of the whole project. There's a 15 minute section of the third act that delves into borderline-Lifetime Channel-esk melodrama. It's brief, then it goes back to McCarthy yelling at old people. For the most part, the comedy relies a lot on McCarthy falling down/crashing into things, her dancing strangely, her mixing up historical facts/misquoting and/or mispronouncing things, and the grandma being inappropriate.

Tammy is like a critically acclaimed artsy foreign film for the Idiocracy universe (assuming Ass has stopped its dominating theatrical run). It's basically Nebraska, but without the plot device of a sweepstakes ticket, and dumbed down for the Wal-Mart crowd. It makes sense that McCarthy wrote the movie, and her husband directed it; that's how scenes like the extended one-lady dance sequence in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant made it into the movie and not on the cutting room floor. If there's anything to be noted about this film after the fact, Tammy is a great example of capitalizing on a comedy actress' popularity without trying very hard to say anything else about her. When your entire marketing campaign is simply "Melissa McCarthy on a jet-ski", I'd say you're probably not aiming for greatness.

As An Exercise in Creating a Random Character and Having That Character Do Random Things Without Any Overarching Story Elements or Motivation To Do Anything - 8.5 out of 10

As An Actual Movie - 5.5 out of 10

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Mike Cohen
Re: Tammy
on Jul 7, 2014 at 5:34:28 pm

Will McCarthy still be funny if she loses weight?

Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill slimmed down and started getting more serious roles, though they continue to be funny.

John Candy and Chris Farley never lost weight, stayed funny, but died (though not due to obesity). James Gandolfini had some funny moments, and did die from obesity-related causes (maybe)- you can have a heart attack for no particular reason even if you are not a person of size.

Bridesmaids was funny. This movie has no appeal whatsoever, but I am not its target audience. I'm sure it will be on heavy rotation on HBO next month.

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Scott Roberts
Re: Tammy
on Jul 7, 2014 at 6:04:25 pm

I think she's potentially funny. She's got good comedic timing and can deliver her lines well, and she also seems pretty comfortable with herself, and confidence is usually a good thing for comedy. But she's stuck (much like Zach Galifianakis) at a point in her career where she plays the same character in everything she does, because it was successful in the beginning. She's played the same character in Bridesmaids, Identity Thief, Hangover 3, The Heat, This is 40, and Tammy. But she's got good potential for the future. Her serious moment scene near the end of Bridesmaids was probably the best scene in the movie. It even got her an Academy Award nomination! More of that kind of thing would be nice.

Her new movie with Bill Murray, St. Vincent, looks like a step in the right direction for her, in my opinion. No more Tammy roles, please.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Tammy
on Jul 7, 2014 at 7:37:34 pm
Last Edited By Tim Wilson on Jul 7, 2014 at 8:45:52 pm

[Scott Roberts] "Her new movie with Bill Murray, St. Vincent, looks like a step in the right direction for her, in my opinion. No more Tammy roles, please."

I don't mind Tammy roles. The more the merrier. I just want them in good movies.

She's also MORE than earned the right to one dud playing a slob. I can think of a crapload of men whose entire career is ONLY duds and slobs.

[Scott Roberts] "Her new movie with Bill Murray, St. Vincent, looks like a step in the right direction for her, in my opinion"

The first time I saw her was on The Gilmore Girls, from 2000-2007. The first four seasons were absolutely ace. I freaking loved that show. She played the chef at an upscale Connecticut Inn, so her work was sophisticated and elegant. Her character was somewhere on the cute-pretty spectrum, and in any case, treated as attractive. She was smart and well put together, and really really sweet.

Somebody at YouTube put together a clip of her more comedic moments, including some light slapstick, but you'll get the idea. I don't know if the start time will come through in this link, but skip ahead to about 50 seconds in. You'll definitely get the idea.

(For the record, her character was named Sookie long before True Blood.)

Thinking some more about the idea that the movie was formless and mostly riffing...

-- She comes from a sketch comedy background, and I think this is one of the hazards of that. A LOT of movies by sketch comedians don't hold up as well as they should. Heck a lot of SKETCHES don't hold up as well as they should.

-- When the problem is the tone, a lot of that has to lay with the director, who's her husband Ben Falcone -- he played the air marshall in Bridesmaids. He also comes from a sketch comedy backgound, so he might have purposely kept a loose hand on the tiller during shooting, without being as aware of what can and can't be salvaged in editing as a more experienced director would have been.

-- The two most unambiguous successes of her movie career were both directed by Paul Feig, who's also a WRITER. He spent a year sending the script for Bridesmaids back to Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumalo, telling them it wasn't ready to shoot. They may have been thinking the same thing that Melissa and Ben thought -- we've got a great idea, and we can riff through the gaps. Insert funny stuff here.

Movies don't work that way, and Feig knows that. If it wasn't on the page, he wasn't going to shoot it.

-- Also worth noting that The Gilmore Girls was a very thoroughly written show. Because the clip above is skewed more toward the physical comedy out of context, you don't see how big a role dialog plays in the show. It's the showrunner's trademark, every bit as much as it is for, say, Joss Whedon, and like Joss, none of Amy Sherman-Palladino's work is left to chance.

Maybe I'm wrong about this, and Ben did everything right, and the script was ready to shoot...but I don't think I am. And hey, maybe Ben's got a perfect movie in him. You don't give a guy $20 million to make a movie just because his wife's movies have made you a fortune. Not even Hollywood works that way anymore.

In fact though, the movie having a $20 million budget may have been part of the problem. I know that that's considered small for a major-ish star -- which the numbers say that Melissa definitely is -- but I wonder if it might have been a sharper movie if they'd been aiming smaller.

I dunno, just thoughts. I do know that my wife and I were saying not long ago that we missed her Gilmore Girls character - smart, pretty, sweet, and still with comic chops to burn. That's why I'm really hopeful for St. Vincent too.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Tammy
on Jul 7, 2014 at 9:03:23 pm

And here I was, wasting my time, watching the newly-restored Fritz Lang "Metropolis"on Amazon prime the other night. (Very pretty, BTW, and the recently-found Argentina footage segments do help the story make more sense... well worth a rental)

They're using McCarthy like when they started abusing Will Ferrell.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Tammy
on Jul 7, 2014 at 9:09:18 pm

Okay, I've been thinking more about this in the context of some of the vile, explicitly sexist commentary I've seen on this.

The fact is that I loved her in Bridesmaids and The Heat. Identity Thief was nearly entirely derailed by the humane stuff at the end. I'd rather have seen the script go pedal to the metal the whole way. She's FUNNY when she's way out there.

Look, nobody needed Hank The Tank to have a heart. That's not why you make a movie like Old School, and that's not why you cast a guy like Will Ferrell, who does of course have "sincerity" chops. My favorite of his is still Stranger Than Fiction, most of the time, that's not what the world needs him to do. He's funnier as id.

And I think the world really does need Melissa McCarthy unleashed. Not ONLY unleashed, but I think she's been hemmed in way too far.

Hell, she'd have been awesome as Hank the Tank. Leave the script 100% unchanged, and turn her loose. She'd have killed. She MORE than has the goods to carry a bunch of goofy comedies on her own. I WANT those movies.

I just happen to also really like the smart, pretty side of her comedy, and would love to see more use of her openheartedness for not primarily comic roles as well.

But I do think that openheartedness is the flipside of being off the leash. She was unreserved in EVERYTHING about Bridesmaids, even when she was whispering, and one reason why the speech on the couch at the end of the movie works as well as it did is because you absolutely believe that that character is that hardcore -- about puppies, about guns, about sex, about EVERYTHING. That was ultimately the point of her speech -- you're holding yourself back. Don't.

The problem is the movies, and only the movies.

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Kylee Peña
Re: Tammy
on Jul 8, 2014 at 12:43:01 pm

I saw a good tweet about this, in general.

"The Melissa McCarthy career obits need to stop. Tammy did $33 million in five days with no hook, no co-star, and few laughs. That $33 million is 100% Melissa McCarthy."

twitter: @kyl33t

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Mark Suszko
Re: Tammy
on Jul 8, 2014 at 2:41:00 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Jul 8, 2014 at 2:41:15 pm

Now she can bankroll a "meaningful" indie to feature herself with a decent script.

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Jeff Breuer
Re: Tammy
on Jul 9, 2014 at 3:06:38 pm

On the subject of her playing the same role. I heard an interview with Will Ferrell on NPR, I think it was around the time he did Everything Must Go (Shot in Scottsdale AZ, FYI). He was asked a question about reinventing his career after the public seems to grow tired of his usual character. Ferrell responded with a comment about Charlie Chaplin's tramp character. How long did Chaplin play, exclusively, the tramp character?

Interesting comment. However, Ferrell is not Chaplin. Chaplin did not turn out a new feature with the same character every year. The audience is different now, and on and on. I think the biggest issue though is over saturation.

But what would you pick? If Farrell or McCarthy did a terrific movie like an Anchorman or a Bridesmaids once every five years, would it be more to you to have that anticipation and pay off, or would you rather fill in that five years gap with Tammy's and The Land of the Lost?

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Scott Roberts
Re: Tammy
on Jul 9, 2014 at 8:01:10 pm

[Jeff Breuer] "If Farrell or McCarthy did a terrific movie like an Anchorman or a Bridesmaids once every five years, would it be more to you to have that anticipation and pay off, or would you rather fill in that five years gap with Tammy's and The Land of the Lost?"

You can find small laughs in all their crappy movies, usually, as well, so I'd say it's worth it for them to be in a lot of movies. But yeah, it doesn't really help create an overall appeal of them. But it's all subjective. I still laugh at Danny McBride, when I assume most everyone else is sick of him. But his schtick does it for me. Steve Carrell's yelly slow person doesn't. But I'm sure it does for someone else! I'd rather the funny people attempt to do funny things than not even try at all, even if it means a handful of crappy movies. Yeah, that's my answer, I guess!

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