In trying to spin a sad-sack comedy from a character out of an A&E reality-TV series set in the heartland, all that’s to Tammy‘s credit is how specifically it disappears into forgettable-ness. It falls into that narrow crevice between cringe comedy and working-class drama. Then, deep underground, long out of the range of humour, it flails where no one can hear it, drawing scenes out into shapeless, squalid things. So often, its witless title-character has a confounded sneer on her face—but that expression’s on the wrong side of the screen. It should be the look of whoever happens to watch this unformed feature.
Tammy (Melissa McCarthy), after wrecking her car, getting fired from her fast-food job and discovering her husband’s adultery, leaves her Illinois town with her hard-drinking grandma (Susan Sarandon), while the story follows in the glorious footsteps of the recent Bad Grandpa (filmed mostly in North Carolina, too). Tammy crashes a jet-ski and Gran forces her to sleep outside a motel room as she swaps more than dentures with a man she bar-hopped. A romantic subplot’s wedged in, along with a “lesbian party” straight outta the ’90s, some transportation’s set alight, there’s the hoosegow, then a smiley ending at Niagara Falls.
A comic character—especially one to carry a 90-minute film—needs at least a spark of self-consciousness, but Tammy’s just a dope who finally gets a kick in the ass from a relative (Kathy Bates) offering American Dream bromides before that good ole USA corrective—prison time. The script, treading water, won’t even drift anywhere interesting in its Jerry Springer Show subplots; its lazy dithering and blathering is only matched by a dingy wallowing, at times, in Tammy as a dumb do-nothing, defined by her victimization. Normally respectable actors pop up—Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Mark Duplass—with so little to do. Some lines aren’t discomfiting-good but uncomfortable-bad: “One time I got fingered by Boz Scaggs. No, it’s OK—turns out it wasn’t really Boz Scaggs.” A lacklustre, pathetic effort at something dustily, dimly resembling a comedy-drama about a woman-child, Tammy seems to be about Tammy but turns out to be about nothing you can really put your finger on, or name, or want to remember at all.