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Wed July 2, 2014
A road trip that might work better at home.
Director: Ben Falcone
Screenplay: Falcone, Melissa McCarthy
Cast: McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Susan Sarandon (Thelma and Louise)
Runtime: 96 min.
by John DeSando
Melissa McCarthy has risen to the forefront of female cinema comics, and I want to believe she deserves her place. Is she a better comedienne than Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, or Jenny Slate? No. She has secured her place ever since Bridesmaids as a potty-mouthed plus size who throws her weight and mouth around the screen like a weapon threatening anyone who thinks she is not comical.
She’s not always so, at least in Tammy, in which she plays an underachieving rebel losing her fast food job and taking to the road with her grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), to escape that job loss and the loss of her husband, Greg (Nat Faxon), to neighbor Missi (Toni Collette).
Thelma and Louise this Tammy is not: Besides the regularity of curse words (McCarthy is one of the writers) that substitute for wit, the insults to seniors and fast-food workers are gratuitous. Tammy’s 38 days in jail are treated like a light diversion, not the result of a serious fast-food robbery. I must remember, however, not to apply standards of common sense to comedy.
So it seems the writers have a difficult time deciding what tone--between the comedy about a rotund lady on the lam and the serious issue of alcoholism. It seems they wanted both hilarity and poignancy—mostly they have neither.
One need look only at much better writing in other contemporary buddy films like the Jump Streets, where Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill have lines that bite and soothe and a chemistry that Sarandon and McCarthy strive for but don’t always achieve. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid’s chemistry and wit are superior, so too Sarandon and Davis in Thelma and Louise, and by the way, McCarthy and Bullock in Heat.
However, McCarthy suffers by comparison with heavyweights like Latifa, Kathy Bates, and maybe Roseanne Barr, who is a more direct comparison and at times better able to show range.
Susan Sarandon’s portrayal of the alcoholic grandma is rarely humorous or poignant. Her flirting with a guy of a certain age is a good bit for her youthful old age, but the connection is forced under the umbrella of cute for an oldster.
Tammy is not a keeper in the buddy genre; perhaps McCarthy will engage Bullock again for a better brand of banter.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com