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This is the story of Tammy’s terrible, awful, no-good, very bad day and how it turned into an even more terrible, awfuller, absolutely no-good and really very bad film.  To say this poor girl is down on her luck would be the understatement of the year.  After totaling her car on the way to her crappy fast-food job, she promptly gets fired.  Now forced to walk home through the muggy, hot Illinois countryside, she finds her husband making dinner for the cute neighbor.  In a huff, Tammy storms out, running to her mother who firmly believes that she’s just throwing another tantrum.  To Tammy, her life has hit the boiling point and she’s decided she’s leaving town, unsure of even where she wants to go.  Luckily, grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon) has a few thousand dollars saved up, a car that drives and a similar urge to hit the road.  They set out for Niagara Falls.

What could have followed was an adorable romp through the midwest, a traveling buddy comedy a-la Thelma and Louis.  Pearl, the wise-cracking, deadpan alcoholic grandma could show this lost, younger woman what it means to take control of your own life.  By the same token, Tammy could teach Pearl a little bit about herself and forcer her to face the responsibilities that she’s been shirking all these years hiding at the bottom of a whiskey bottle.  In fact, that’s probably precisely the film that Melissa McCarthy and her husband (director) Ben Falcone were envisioning when they sat down to flesh out the screenplay.  Sadly, what stumbled onto the screen this holiday weekend was a sloppy, meandering and lost attempt at drawing laughs and ticket sales like a dentist pulls teeth.  There are a number of factors that contributed to the failing of this comedic flailing, but all issues seem to stem from the thought that Melissa McCarthy is universally and infallibly funny.  I’m starting to have my doubts.

Just like the rest of America, I liked Bridesmaids (2011).  I thought I’d split a seam when McCarthy hosted SNL (all 3 times).  She’s the type of actor that one would think could be funny in absolutely anything.  This contention might be true to an extent, but it’s been proven that the greatest pitfall for many actors is that they get pigeonholed.  It’s like a sickness for a good actor – it’s symptoms are immediately recognizable.  For the first 15 to 20 minutes, TAMMY is raucous, loud and in your face funny.  Tammy is a character that anyone with the slightest familiarity with Middle America can identify with.  She’s snide, rude, unlucky, and boisterous, but earnestly well-meaning and heartfelt.  After all, that’s exactly the type of character that we’ve come to expect from McCarthy.  But after the initial comforting familiarity, her bread and butter routine has started to get stale.  Pretty soon you start to realize why this character seems so instantly familiar.  She may not have the same color hair, maybe she’s gained a few pounds, but the stagnancy of her rambunctious character steadily becomes more pronounced to the point that it gets tiresome.

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What it comes right down to is that TAMMY never really finds its stride.  Many people can identify with those life-altering moments where your only option seems to be to leave the past behind and start somewhere fresh.  This compulsion, however, translates all too well in this story as the meandering plot struggles to find new ways to keep the audience engaged.  The trailer made this film seem like it would be a riot with plenty of heart.  It’s disheartening to discover that the appeal is only superficial.

The end product of TAMMY turns out to be a special kind of disaster; one that is more illuminating for it’s participants than for any hopeful audience member.  Ben Falcone’s first attempt at directing definitely misses the mark, but only in so far as he needs to flesh out his own style.  Someday, I hope to see a successful endeavor between him and his wife.  Their next collaboration entitled MICHELLE DARNELL is slated for a 2016 release.  My only hope is that with their subsequent projects, Falcone is able to define a greater balance between unleashing McCarthy into a scene and forcing her down our throats.  As with everything else, these things take practice.  Melissa McCarthy has not lost her appeal, we’re all just a little more skeptical and waiting to see what else she can do.

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