Being fully aware of the subjectivity of comedy, I still defy anyone to convince me of Melissa McCarthy’s appeal. She has built her career upon playing loud, brash, willfully annoying characters who lie somewhere on the wide spectrum of white trash. There’s an intentional ugliness to the roles — despite the idea in some circles that McCarthy is innately and irreproachably likable — that sucks any possibility of charm from her characters. McCarthy’s latest vehicle, Tammy, is no different. It actually ratchets the unsympathetic nature of her onscreen persona up a few decibels, while the rest of the film — from the cast to the story to the characters — is coated in a subtly vile, boorish tone that becomes increasingly painful to watch.
McCarthy is the titular Tammy, a slovenly, rude, former fast-food worker who comes home to find her husband (Nat Faxon, The Way Way Back) cheating on her. Why anyone would marry this woman is confounding. She’s generally obnoxious and loud — a combination that’s compounded by McCarthy, who’s given every opportunity to riff and ad-lib the movie to a halt. The rest of the movie is spurred on by her husband’s infidelity, as Tammy and her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon in a bad wig) decide to take a road trip, and … that’s pretty much it. Various set pieces pop up, usually punctuated with some hoary slapstick or vaguely objectionable bit of humor from McCarthy.
The film’s real purpose is for the audience to sit and laugh at the redneck Tammy and her alcoholic grandmother, adding a slimy tone to the whole proceeding. In theory, this is a worthless endeavor to traipse along after. In practice, it comes off even worse, as first-time director Ben Falcone shoots the film with the vim and vigor of an infomercial. But, in the end, the film belongs to McCarthy, and a lot of the blame should be placed at her feet. There are many critics — and, one would assume, audience members — who still find her schtick palatable. With her reliance on a kind of artless physical comedy, the free reign she has to be “random” and her generally clamorous nature, she’s not all that far removed from Will Ferrell or, if you really want to get down to it, a slightly more palatable Adam Sandler. Really, McCarthy’s Tammy isn’t much different from the sort of honky minstrel business Larry the Cable Guy was peddling a few years ago. And if you question this, Tammy is all the proof you need. Rated R for language including sexual references.