Film Review- Tammy
Rated R for language, 96 Minutes
Fair Value of Tammy: $.7.00. It’s a Rule 63 version of a middling Chris Farley road comedy, lighter on the body humor and heavier on the empathy. Worth a rental, but you can wait till it’s on Netflix. I snickered often but there was never a moment where I laughed loudly.
Your Life Exploded! Time for a Road Trip! – Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) begins as a particularly bedraggled midwestern waddle beast, having lost her job, home, husband, car, in a single day. Washing up at her parent’s home, she wrangles a deal with her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) to get Pearl’s car in exchange for taking Pearl along for the ride, and out of impending consignment to a hospice. Their ostensible destination is Niagara Falls, but that’s really more of a vague notion than a hard destination. These ladies are out to drink and screw and temporarily forget their dead end lives in the rust belt suburbia.
Rule 63 Revelry – With her energy, lunatic eyes, and her dirty blond wig, Melissa McCarthy is very much conveying a performance best described as ‘Chris Farley in drag’. She is a profoundly stupid and petulant character, unable to resist any snack pie in sight. Sarandon’s Pearl, however, is no David Spade like voice of sarcastic reason, but instead is an enabler and encourager of Tammy’s wild habits.
There other interesting inversions of the road trip formula. The climactic frat party is substituted with an all-lesbian 4th of July party. It’s Bobby (Mark DuPlass) who has to deal with Tammy’s inept pick-up lines. I thought the romance in this film was one of the best and most progressive elements of the film- we have a heavyset woman who’s actually being liked for being a fun and vulnerable person.
Enter Les Enfants Ancien: As wonderful as the word ‘Manchild’ is to describe those of my ilk, it has one problem in being gendered, and ‘Womanchild’ doesn’t have the same ring. How about we call them the malmature- immaturity that has stagnated into a perpetual stasis?
I like the phrase ‘L’Enfant Ancien’, or ancient child, to describe a class of characters that are mounting in comedic frequency- the trope of the senior citizen who reacts to their age by trying to outdo the teenagers in wildness and immaturity. It’s existed at least as far back as Tex Avery. But in this twilight of the Baby Boomers, the trope is flailing about with even greater occurrence in abandon. One of the best running gags of Tammy is that it is the grand-daughter struggling to reign in the excesses of her septuagenarian granny as much as it is vice versa.
Failure to Launch: Tammy is rather tepid when it comes to the protagonists learning valuable life lessons. She doesn’t so much pull herself together as she just mellows out of the bender. We see the character get fixed, but we don’t see much of them fixing themselves. I’m surprised that McCarthy and director Ben Falcone (Bridesmaids, Enough Said) didn’t try to milk any humor from the jail scenes.
You know that your life has been a series of poor life choices when you can identify with a Melissa McCarthy or Zach Gallifinakis character. The change of scenery may not make a person any less of a fool, but at least they can then remark upon having been a fool in interesting places. If luck is favorable I may soon be teaching in China. May I live in interesting times and gain the attention of people in high places- I know I shall remain an unhealthy ape, but at least I’ll be an ape with an unusual view. My advice to all the Tammies and Tommy Boys of America is this- emigrate. America is not a healthy diet for anybody.