Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Tammy

Directed by: Ben Falcone

Produced by: Melissa McCarthy
Will Ferrell
Adam McKay

Screenplay by: Ben Falcone
Melissa McCarthy

Starring: Melissa McCarthy
Susan Sarandon
Kathy Bates
Allison Janney
Dan Aykroyd
Gary Cole
Sandra Oh
Mark Duplass
Toni Collette
Nat Faxon
Ben Falcone
Sarah Baker

Music by: Michael Andrews

Cinematography by: Russ T. Alsobrook

Editing by: Michael L. Sale

Studio(s): New Line Cinema
Gary Sanchez Productions

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date(s): July 2, 2014 (United States)
July 4, 2014 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 96 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $20 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $72, 078, 000

And so, with June out of the way, I think nearly three weeks in it's about time I get the show on the road and get on with my reviews for July. This is going to be a busy wee period for the movies, so while I can only guarantee so far a review for this and Begin Again, I fully intend on getting round to seeing Mrs. Brown's Boys: D'Movie, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and more. Also, on an off-topic matter, I'm reading Franz Kafka's The Trial and despite starting yesterday already a hundred pages plus into it. Kafka is one of my literary masters, one of the very few writers with a style that is distinctly his own and more or less impossible to replicate. Idiosyncratic, full of complex and challenging thematic content, Kafka is always a pleasure to read. There are many that I admire in the arts, but there are less in that number who I count as genuine influences on my own craft: from the standpoint of literature, Kafka would be right up there, and as far as my plans for the future, I would love to adapt some of his work. Anywho, enough of my gushing about Franz!: for all the latest and greatest regarding the movies, keep your eyes posted!

So, today's movie up for review is Tammy, the latest in the recent line of star vehicles for Melissa McCarthy. I don't care what anyone else says, but after her turn in Bridesmaids (which garnered her a deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod) and the box-office successes of Identity Thief and The Heat, McCarthy has made the transition to that of a bona-fide star with marketable name value. There aren't many comics with that ability to draw the numbers, but clearly McCarthy's brand of comedy (loud and gregarious foul-mouthed everywoman dialled up to twenty) sells. Tammy is very much a family affair, given that she and husband Ben Falcone (who makes his feature directorial debut) share screenwriting credit, she is the star and he has a small supporting role and she is also one of the producers (alongside Will Ferrell and Adam McKay). So, story goes that Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) is fired for consistently showing up to work late, and after her car dies on the way home, she returns to find her husband Greg (Nat Faxon) having a romantic dinner with their next-door neighbour (Toni Collette). She leaves him, telling her mother (Allison Janney) about her plans to hit the road and, taking her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon), plus her car, savings and beer, the two go on a bit of a strange road trip. Got it? Good!

Starting with the good regarding Tammy, I do have to say that I like Melissa McCarthy as a comedic talent. There's a reason people are lapping up this stuff and paying their hard-earned money to see this stuff, and that's because McCarthy does have a charm. Also, it's obvious that this extends to above and beyond her ability to draw an audience, because judging from the ensemble cast here, there's a whole line of people just waiting to work with her. You've got Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Dan Aykroyd, Sandra Oh, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, a whole bevy of talented actors who signed up to this movie, and even if their parts aren't anything particularly special, it's nice to see them there. In fairness, Susan Sarandon, although the character's a second-rate version of Alan Arkin's Grandpa Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine, is clearly giving it stacks to try and get the film over, using her wealth of experience to try to sell us on the chemistry and relationship between Tammy and Pearl. Finally, I do have to say that although they are few and far between, there are a number of good gags in Tammy. Little things such as the title character leaving her husband, declaring her independence (cute play on the tagline, eh?), only to walk two doors down the street to her mother's house. If the movie had more moments like this it certainly would have elevated it above the standard of work we are presented.

If it looked like I was perhaps trying to make space for what I thought was good about Tammy, it probably was because I did. However, much as I do think highly of Melissa McCarthy, after Tammy, I'm going to be taking her work with a pinch of salt, because this was a rubbish comedy. As I said, you've got all these talented people clamouring to work with McCarthy, and while I don't like to presume, I find it hard to believe that they all read that script and said "this is a great bit of work, let's do this," because it's a horrible script. It doesn't have to be Shakespeare, Chekhov or Ibsen, but it isn't even a half-decent script, it's just rotten. For all intents and purposes, genre-wise it appears to be a road movie in the vein of something like Rain Man (though nowhere near as dramatic or entertaining), but the problem is is that there doesn't seem to be any consistency in what these characters do. All it is a mish-mish of bits without any real link to it all, and this is all supposed to be under the guise of some sort of female empowerment and declaring independence from society's male-imposed shackles: I'm sorry, but what the hell does robbing a fast food restaurant have to do with all this? Also, there comes a point in the film at a Fourth of July party celebration and aftermath in which there is supposed to be a sort-of underlying point to all this, a message to be delivered by way of the protagonist finally waking up to the fact that she has been running away her whole life and she needs to take responsibility for herself. However, the plot device (which I won't say, because it involves spoilers) used to get this across is completely botched with that whole "we'll tease you with some real dramatic tension, but then we'll go 'hey, it's all okay!' just to mess around with you" schtick, and it just destroys any chance the film has at legitimate resonance. Also, as I said, the characters are by no means anything special on paper, so even these seasoned veterans are exposed as quite clearly phoning it in and not really doing much to contribute to the film apart from simply being there as part of the wallpaper. I went to see this with my good friend over at Danland Movies (who has published a less belated and rather eloquent review for this film) and we were both near aghast in horror when I made the mistake of referring to my watch, discovering we were only about fifty minutes in. When I went and took my obligatory trip to the toilet, I asked a member of staff what the running time was, and nearly could have kissed him when he said it was just over ninety minutes, because I don't think I could have stood two whole hours of this. Don't get me wrong, Tammy's not an outrageously bad film by any stretch, but when you're not enjoying a movie you feel every minute, so the short running time here was a saving grace alright.

Saying that Tammy isn't an absolutely terrible comedy ain't exactly a glowing recommendation, but I'd be dishonest if I said otherwise. Perhaps there are people out there who will eat this up (and judging by the box-office receipts, though less than most of her other movies, it seems there is), but I didn't find much to go on here. I don't know if you could call this a passion project or what, but it's obvious that while McCarthy has talent, she does need to reigned in and have someone there who can objectively say to her and husband Ben Falcone that their script is utter tripe. I have no doubt that there could be good collaborative work here in the future. However, with episodes of mish-mash and balderdash, dulled underlying messages and a whole lot of other things I'm sure I'm missing because the movie is too stupid to get it across appropriately, Tammy is not McCarthy's vehicle to set the world on fire.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 3.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Pondering (the finale of The Shield. Finished one of my all-time favourite television series last night. I was spellbound by the haunting ending.)

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