By Sam Adams | Criticwire July 1, 2014 at 3:55PM
Melissa McCarthy has built up tremendous goodwill and industry clout in the three years since "Bridesmaids." With "Tammy," she spends it all. McCarthy produced, stars and co-wrote the script with her husband, Ben Falcone, who directed the film, and her image — looking rather pointedly less bedraggled than her character's — is the centerpiece of the marketing campaign. She stuffs the film with a dream cast of largely female performers: Susan Sarandon as her free-spirited, alcoholic grandma, Kathy Bates as a lesbian Earth mother, "Louie's" Sarah Baker in a small but winning part as a fast-food cashier, Allison Janney, Sandra Oh, Toni Colette — the list goes on. It's hard to imagine McCarthy and Falcone's middling script, which casts her as a jilted fast-food worker who sets out on a road trip with the aforementioned bad granny, drew them to the project so much as the chance to work with McCarthy, which may be why some of them do little more than show up and run their lines.
"Tammy" doesn't feel like the kind of movie you cash in your chips for: It breaks modestly with the practice of casting McCarthy as an oafish foil, but not so definitively that it can be seen as any kind of a passion project. It's studiously unremarkable, but for some eccentricities of casting, like the fact that only 24 years separate the women playing three generations of Tammy's family, so much so that it's impossible to work up any strong feelings either for or against it. But there are a few aspects that make it stand it out from the herd.
Chief among them is McCarthy and Falcone's decision to populate their world with characters that are largely female. My colleague Glenn Kenny remarked after his screening that the movie passes the Bechdel Test "with flying colors," and indeed, I struggle to think of more than a handful of scenes — almost all concerning Tammy's confrontations with male authority figures — that don't. At my screening, the audience began to "aah" each time a new, beloved actress showed up on the screen, as if they couldn't quite believe their eyes. Tammy's budding romance with a farmer's son played by Mark Duplass feels like a half-hearted concession to formula: He and McCarthy have zero chemistry, and the movie doesn't much seem to care.
"Tammy" isn't particularly good, or interesting, or funny, but it's also never mean or snide or ungenerous; it's hard to think of a recent studio comedy that fits the latter half of that description. Besides, can you really hate a movie in which Susan Sarandon and Melissa McCarthy duet on the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider"? I would submit that you cannot. McCarthy's probably out of favors, but "Tammy" might give her a few more chips to cash in.
More reviews of "Tammy"
Justin Chang, Variety
McCarthy delivers another one of her patented loser-girl comic showcases, all coarse displays of temper, aggression and flailing ineptitude. That the performance and the movie ultimately aspire to something richer — a compassionate look at midlife malaise and cross-generational female bonding — turns out to be more admirable in theory than enjoyable in the execution by the end of this middling misfire.
Alonso Duralde, the Wrap
I certainly wanted to like Tammy, and “Tammy,” since I've been a fan of McCarthy going all the way back to her work on “Gilmore Girls,” and at Los Angeles’ Groundlings improv theater prior to her dynamic, Oscar-nominated turn in “Bridesmaids.” But she and her husband Falcone (who also directed) have created a character comedy that's missing both comedy and character.
Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice
"Tammy" loves McCarthy too much, but it’s obliged to: Her husband did direct it, after all. Trouble is, it has all the problems of "The Heat" and only a quarter of the laughs. Falcone’s film is an unsteady mix of broad comedy and indie heart, asking us first to roar at Tammy’s ignorance and outrageousness and then to be moved at this lovable misfit muddling toward love, maturity, and a better life.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
Just as it was no fun being stuck in a small car on a road trip with Barbra Streisand in "The Guilt Trip" two years back, so is it stifling to endure the same with another actress with a large shtick here; perhaps performers with such big personalities shouldn’t remain confined to such cramped quarters. McCarthy’s legion of fans will likely sign on initially for her first film since last summer’s girl-cop comic smash "The Heat," but this one’s legs will be short.
Drew Taylor, the Playlist
"Tammy" is the rare female-led studio comedy that isn't exclusively consumed with the lead character chasing after a man (or getting revenge on a man or having their lives otherwise defined by a man). Tammy is a character who seems to be losing on all fronts, but rarely does she (or the movie) take the time to assess just how much of that is her fault. This could have been a charming, ramshackle road movie about two women who reconnect on the road, actualizing all of the wishful fantasies that have occupied their minds but rarely been actualized in their real lives. But this is not what "Tammy" is. "Tammy" is a movie that is painful, pathetic, and more willing to engage in a joke about getting fingered by Boz Scaggs than anything even remotely introspective.
Drew McWeeny, HitFix
Near the end of the film, Tammy points at Niagara Falls and says she's going to barrel over it and she's figured out how to do it just right so she can survive. "You know what, Tammy?" says her grandmother, "if anybody can do it, you can." Well, that seems like a character I'd watch in a film. If the point is supposed to be that Tammy is this big irrepressible spirit who has never been understood, great. McCarthy can play that. If Tammy's supposed to be this unstoppable force who gets whatever she wants, that's also a character I could see her playing. But the Tammy of the film is so thinly imagined that I can't tell you what defines her. I watched an entire movie about her, and until there was that conversation in the film's closing moments, I couldn't have made that connection.
Anne Thompson, Thompson on Hollywood
Given the chance to do her own thing, writing and collaborating with her husband Ben Falcone on Gary Sanchez production "Tammy," McCarthy had an opportunity to show us all what she can do. Instead of taking off in uncharted directions, she delivers a limp noodle of a dumb comedy.
Stephen Whitty, Star-Ledger
Of course, it's terrific — even kind of amazing — that McCarthy has even become a star. It's great that she's now getting control over her own films. But "Tammy" is trying so hard to get us to like her, it forgets the most important thing of all: We already did.