Plenty of people – especially those dismayed by the continued dearth of women who occupy Hollywood power seats – want Melissa McCarthy to continue to prove herself to be the female equal of such bankable male laugh-getters as Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell both onscreen and behind the scenes.
She has already steamrolled over such rom-com princesses as Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz as cinema’s top-banana funny lady after last year’s top-20 box-office hits “The Heat” and “Identity Thief.” But “Tammy,” her first film as a solo headliner (with an assist from scene-stealer Susan Sarandon) that offers an uncommon opportunity for a comic actress to flex her multi-hyphenate muscles as star, co-writer and co-producer (with hubby Ben Falcone directing), is causing even her most zealous supporters concern.
“Tammy,” a bumpy road-trip adventure with too few belly laughs that reduces the usually large-and-in-charge McCarthy to small-town sad-sack status, earned a 27% approval ranking from critics at Rotten Tomatoes. A number of reviewers regretted having to bash the likable actress for her haphazard efforts. “I hesitate to label the result as bad or good. It’s just … off,” states “New York” magazine’s David Edelstein. Manohla Dargis of “The New York Times” was especially concerned by the amount of jokes made at the expense of the title character’s eating habits, declaring them to be “tedious and borderline desperate,” while adding that, “Ms. McCarthy, and perhaps her collaborators, haven’t yet found a way for her to be completely comfortable in her own skin onscreen.”
An estimated five-day tally of $33 million is McCarthy’s lowest opening among her last four films. Even more telling – and potentially damaging – is that paying audiences were less than thrilled by “Tammy,” resulting in a C-plus grade from CinemaScore (anything under A-minus from opening-weekend attendees is worrisome).
Signature line: “I want to apologize. I’m not even confident on which end that came out of” – McCarthy as Megan, the gaseous wedding participant, right before the infamous sink-pooping incident in 2011’s "Bridesmaids."
Career peaks: As the lovably bubbly Sookie St. James on the WB series “The Gilmore Girls” for seven seasons, this alum of L.A.’s Groundlings improv troupe attracted a fan base that continued to expand with her CBS sitcom “Mike & Molly,” which is about to enter its fifth season. While the 43-year-old Midwest native who was raised on a farm as part of a large Irish-Catholic clan (including model/actress Jenny McCarthy, her cousin) made her film debut in 1999’s “Go,” it wasn’t until she broke out as the brashly outspoken and bawdy Megan in “Bridesmaids” that she became a much sought-after multiplex attraction.
Along with supporting parts in 2012’s “This Is 40” and 2013’s “The Hangover III,” McCarthy teamed with Jason Bateman in 2013’s “Identity Thief,” which failed to impress critics but clicked with moviegoers while grossing $174 million worldwide. In the summer, she found an even better sparring partner in Sandra Bullock in her full-blown prim mode as they paired in “The Heat.” The female spin on a "48 HRS."-style action comedy took in $230 million worldwide – making it last year’s most popular comedy.