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Review and Roundup: Why Melissa McCarthy Vehicle 'Tammy' Never Takes Off

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 1, 2014 at 1:59PM

Melissa McCarthy's 'Tammy' may look like a comedy from its trailers, but it turns out it's actually a whole different ball game.
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Tammy struts her stuff.
Tammy struts her stuff.

Who isn't rooting for Melissa McCarthy to succeed? She's the living proof that so many of Hollywood's long-held ideas about relegating character actresses and comediennes to supporting riffs are plain idiotic. She blasted out of "Bridesmaids" like a rocket and has sustained her soaring trajectory. From "Identity Thief" to "The Heat" (with uber-star Sandra Bullock), McCarthy proved she could carry a comedy. Until now.

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. After a lovely set piece when she hits a deer on the road, McCarthy is outshone by veterans Susan Sarandon and Kathy Bates, partly because she gives herself such a poorly constructed, ugly character to play. It's hard to believe that this under-educated "fat loser," as her drunk grandmother (Sarandon) calls her late in the movie (Tammy doesn't recognize the name Mark Twain), could be in the same family as her grandmother (whose illness she ignores to a dangerous degree), parents (Allison Janney and Dan Aykroyd) or her husband (Nat Faxon). McCarthy is all over the place. We do not know who Tammy is or how she got there. 

I wanted more background on their marriage, or some understanding of why their house didn't look like Tammy could have lived in it. While Sarandon owns her flirtation with an older man (Gary Cole), McCarthy's romantic interaction with his saccharine son (Mark Duplass) is forced and awkward. McCarthy is a talented woman. Why does her comedy have to be so dumb? Why not make it smart? 

One critic below compares "Tammy" to "Nebraska." I'd like to see McCarthy work with Alexander Payne. That's the right idea. He's been breaking Hollywood's comedy rules for years. He could challenge her with his brainy, thoughtful real-world filmmaking. Audiences love her deft timing, athletic physical comedy and inner strength--that's what she showed in "The Heat." This sloppy movie smacks of prole pandering. 

Review round-up and trailer below:

This article is related to: Melissa McCarthy, Mark Duplass, Nebraska, Reviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.