By Chaz Lipp

Warner Bros. is rolling out Tammy for Fourth of July weekend, banking entirely on the strength of Melissa McCarthy’s recent hits. It’s a gamble unlikely to pay off. Last summer’s smash The Heat not only had the comedic skill of Sandra Bullock, it also had an actual plot. Tammy, written by McCarthy with director Ben Falcone, has traces of good ideas and plenty of talented actors to help shoulder the burden. But those ideas go largely undeveloped and the supporting cast is entirely underutilized.

Tammy (McCarthy) is having a bad day. After a deer-involved car accident, she loses her minimum wage, fast food job. If that weren’t bad enough, she comes home to find her husband Greg (Nat Faxon) has cooked dinner for their neighbor Missi (Toni Collette). Tammy quickly realizes there’s more going on here than dinner. Her marriage is over, so she packs up and walks a few doors down to her mom’s (Allison Janney) house. Before long, Tammy has teamed with Grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon) to get out of town and embark on an adventure.

Might as well stop right there, because that’s more or less what the movie does – all set up, no pay off. Anyone who’s seen the trailer knows Tammy ends up robbing a Topperjack’s (the fast food chain from which she was fired). That’s because, after a night of binge drinking (and driving), Tammy and Pearl wind up in jail. Pearl has a string of medical problems stemming from her untreated alcoholism and the cops uncover some non-prescribed Oxycontin. Much of the remainder of the running time is given over to Tammy and Pearl ditching the evidence of the Topperjack’s robbery and holing up with Pearl’s cousin, Lenore (Kathy Bates).

Just look at those names: Sarandon, Collette, Janney, Bates, not mention Gary Cole (as a love interest for Pearl) and Dan Aykroyd (as Tammy’s dad). Not one of them has a genuinely funny moment because, in most cases, none of them are given anything funny to do. Only Sarandon is granted more than wisp of a character, but even then pretty much all she’s allowed to do is act wasted. Back stories? Forget about it. And don’t even try to figure out how the 43-year-old McCarthy is playing the daughter of 54-year-old Janney, who in turn is the daughter of 67-year-old Sarandon.

The age discrepancies wouldn’t be such a big deal if the movie was funnier. It’s just that the idea of Sarandon, who most would agree looks great for her age, trying to play a role better suited for someone of Betty White or Maureen O’Hara’s vintage is indicative of Tammy’s desperation. By the time the supposedly wise entrepreneur Lenore tries to give Tammy some tough love (in jarringly incongruous response to Pearl having drunkenly, cruelly humiliated Tammy the night before), you have to wonder if McCarthy originally intended Tammy to be a drama.

Photos: Warner Bros.
Chaz Lipp

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