Susan Sarandon and Melissa McCarthy share a laugh
Photo by Michael Tackett - Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Melissa McCarthy is a relatively new movie star, but she’s already discovered a formula; if you saw Identity Thief you’ll recognize it in her latest vehicle, Tammy. The film opens by showing McCarthy’s working-class character at her most crass and offensive. At some point she’s humanized and reduced to tears; this creates empathy, you see. In a subsequent scene she adopts a softer, more appealing hairstyle and wardrobe—to the surprise of her male costar. We get a few more tears, then another round of inane humor to bring it all home.

There are occasional laughs in Tammy, but they’re far too occasional for a supposed comedy. McCarthy wrote this script for herself with her husband, Ben Falcone (who also directed and costars), and let’s just say it may not be taught in the better screenwriting courses. It makes little sense at the outset and even less at the conclusion. You can glean all you need to from the trailer: self-destructive loser McCarthy leaves home on a road trip with her randy, hard-drinking grandmother (Susan Sarandon) and they have a series of raucous misadventures.

Mark Duplass in Warner Bros release Tammy
Photo by Michael Tackett - Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Clearly, McCarthy and Falcone are counting on fans deriving enough enjoyment from sheer tumult to please them and overlook the film’s illogic and inconsistencies. It doesn’t hurt that they’ve cast the film with A-list players, including Sarandon, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh, Dan Aykroyd, and Nat Faxon. Most of them have small, thankless roles, but Sarandon effortlessly dominates every scene she’s in and keeps her character grounded and real, no matter how shallow or silly the script may be. Duplass is also quite likable as McCarthy’s down-to-earth love interest.

Melissa McCarthy has a powerful comedic presence. Why should it be squandered in a movie this mediocre?