I suppose if desperate times call for desperate measures, the place you might look for guidance is “Tammy,” which lands on Blu-ray disc soon. Given how disjointed a motion picture this is, however, you’re probably best not to let the lead character’s decisions dictate how you approach your issues or problems at hand. “Tammy” is far from flashy, lacks polish and feels clogged with unnecessary characters and elements that bog it down rather than lift it up.
Director Ben Falcone takes a stab at holding all the cards during “Tammy,” but it is really lead actress Melissa McCarthy who assumes this burden. She stars in the title role, co-wrote the script and also produced. Her prior work in film and television will likely be what continues to define her qualities as an actress and comedian despite a few attempts to make “Tammy” a breakout role. Her performance feels rougher around the edges than it likely should have, and she fails to generate substantial energy for the Tammy character in a way that solicits buy in from the audience.
My criticism aside, “Tammy” did well at the box office, raking in nearly $100 million on a $20 million budget. It’s a surprisingly simple film that likely will appeal to a comedy market in need of an easy way to waste 96 minutes and never get that time back. McCarthy is undoubtedly in charge all the way through, and even though the end result is about as stinky as spoiled egg nog, she wears it like a badge. Heck, if you’re going to be bad, you might as well at the very least be good at it, right?
The film begins with Tammy (McCarthy) getting fired from her job at a fast food restaurant and coming home to see her husband Greg (Nat Faxon) eating a romantic dinner with their neighbor Missi (Toni Collette). Shocked and appalled, Tammy storms out and heads for her parents’ house two doors down. In a bizarre tantrum, she tells her mother Deb (Allison Janney) that she plans to leave town and never come home. Because she totaled her car on the way to work and needs new wheels, Tammy agrees to take her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) along for the journey. Well, that and the fact that Pearl has a wad of cash to her name.
Following a drunken series of escapades, Tammy decides to give up and turn around, but Pearl instead convinces her to head for Niagara Falls. En route, they stop at a bar and meet up with a local father and son, Earl (Gary Cole) and Bobby (Mark Duplass), get arrested after fighting with a few teenagers in a liquor store, rob a fast food restaurant to secure bail money, meet up with Pearl’s lesbian cousin Lenore (Kathy Bates), drunkenly celebrate July 4, get arrested again for armed robbery and ultimately make it home to Murphysboro, IL.
“Tammy” doesn’t slow down all that much, but when it does, its momentum noticeably suffers. There are more than a few moments where the film downgrades to try to humanize Tammy and her hellish antics, but because the rest of the run time is pushing the envelope at a pretty aggressive capacity, it’s hard to juxtapose these things together and still have it all work simultaneously. Most of it feels more forced than natural, but we eventually become comfortable with the over the top performances and the strings attached to each one along the way.
McCarthy isn’t a stranger to being ever so forward in her work, and “Tammy” is no exception. She’s great at illustrating how troubled Tammy is from top to bottom, but isn’t as successful when she works to help pull the character up from the lower tiers where she has placed herself in the film’s first few minutes. Her supporting cast is a solid group on paper, but given the fact that “Tammy” is not an Oscar contender, they don’t necessarily bring their A game to the table.
Sarandon does a pretty good job as a drug and alcohol addicted old lady who is so out to lunch she can’t put two and two together. Her comedy here is dry and abrupt, which pushes back on McCarthy’s more physical, slapstick methods surprisingly well. Cole and Duplass work well together as a father and son duo looking for whatever good time they can muster, and the connection they develop with the two female leads feels like natural chemistry is at work. In fact, it’s probably the most natural thing about the entire film.
Recognizable faces pop up, too, including Kathy Bates and a very brief appearance from Dan Aykroyd. Were they necessary? Probably not. Were they well-cast and funny in their minor parts? You bet! Their roles seem to bridge the gap between one comedy generation and the next, which also indirectly hints at the fact that McCarthy isn’t going to disappear anytime soon from the spotling.
At day’s end, “Tammy” is imperfect for countless reasons, but it’s pretty darn good at being what it is: flawed comedy. The moments that do work aren’t all that special, and given the film’s overall lack of depth, it’s best to maintain low expectations all the way through.
“Tammy” has a pretty decent 1.85:1 1080p High Definition video transfer that offers vivid bright colors and minimal grain throughout. It isn’t as sharp as it could be, but for a movie like “Tammy,” sharp is a pretty low priority. Regardless, Warner Bros. presents a transfer that really utilizes natural light and bright colors without much effort, generating some good authenticity in the look and feel of the final product.
I wish the audio transfer wasn’t as good as it actually is, but “Tammy” utilizes its English 5.1 DTS-High Definition Master Audio soundtrack very well. We are given a lot of power in the film’s music, spoken words and natural background noises. It works on many levels, and we’re able to easily detect the emotions for every individual character, be they positive or otherwise. The scenes where Tammy is singing are especially great on your surround sound and ears, so be sure to pay extra close attention. I was impressed with the audio balance top to bottom, and pleased that the depth to “Tammy” in terms of the ear drums was better than some recent action titles I’ve reviewed. Other audio choices include Dolby Digital French and Spanish 5.1s, with subtitles in English, French and Spanish, too.
The film comes with a standard definition DVD and digital copy (which you’ll of course need, right?) and a few extras, including an extended cut (three minutes longer) to compliment the theatrical version, a few deleted scenes, a gag reel, a featurette that looks at a real road trip director Falcone and McCarthy took, plus several mash-ups that might entertain you.
A Final Word:
Unless you’re alright with letting someone else’s awful resistance to life’s obstacles and changes get your motor going, I’d stay away from “Tammy.” There’s a very good chance that McCarthy will be back sooner rather than later, and probably with something better.