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