This Melissa McCarthy vehicle is a one-dimensional sludge-fest of a film that once again sets up a big, sloppy, foulmouthed and sometimes cruel stereotype (with a soft spot!) for her to wade into.
Lots of folks would see Tammy as an overweight loser who's her own worst enemy. She's always ruffled, always munching on Cheetos or chips, always late, always mouthy and always ready to profanely blame her many woes on something or someone other than herself.
Of course, that's not how Tammy sees things at all. From her perspective she's just weathering, as best she can, a bunch of bad days. OK, maybe months. Or years. And for those who don't like that explanation, well, she'd likely tell them to ...
Well, maybe we won't repeat what she'd likely say.
Tammy's bad luck comes to a head when she slams into a deer and totals her car. She was innocently digging through the junk in the back seat of her Corolla and she only took her eyes off the road for one second! But the result is that she's late for work, which causes her to lose her job, which causes her to go home early, which causes her to catch her louse of a husband fixing a romantic dinner for a neighbor woman.
So you can kinda see what she means when she says she's just suffering through so much bad luck.
After suddenly realizing that her husband has never fixed dinner for her, not even once, Tammy decides it's time to get out of town and leave all her crazy problems behind. She has no car now, of course, and only $63 to her name. But she's young, she's bright and … she'll work it all out …
… by hitting up her Granny Pearl. Granny's an alcoholic diabetic who is about as pleasant as a snake bite, but she's got a car. And $6,700 in cash. And that makes her a prime road trip companion.
Where will they go? What will they see? Who will they cuss at?
Tammy tries to curb Pearl's drinking once she realizes it's negatively impacting the older woman's health. Pearl—when sober—appears to be a somewhat level-headed individual who apologizes for her drunken antics and talks about wanting her granddaughter to positively "change the trajectory of her life." A farmer named Bobby (the son of a man Pearl had a drunken fling with) states that he sees a very grounded, sensible side to Tammy, and his encouragement appears to help bring more of that to the forefront of Tammy's life.
Tammy tells her estranged husband that the adulterous relationship he's having is between him and God. "And He frowns on that kind of stuff," she snaps.
The film casually accepts that adultery and casual sex are just a regular part of life. Pearl talks about seducing Tammy's father and having a youthful affair with a guy from The Allman Brothers. Tammy's dad reports that Pearl would often proposition men in the neighborhood. The only one who took her up on the offer was the ice cream man—the same guy Tammy let fondle her breasts in exchange for Klondike bars.
Crude, rude and even outright obscene jokes concerning these and other sexual subjects abound. From nudity to oral sex to homosexuality, the flurry of offensive offerings flits and flies around the entire story.
Pearl and a drunk named Earl start smooching in a bar and end up wrestling and fondling each other in the backseat of her car. They consummate their elderly lust behind closed doors after kicking Tammy out of their motel room. Later, Pearl brags about his "servicing."
Tammy's wealthy aunt, along with her female lover, invite Tammy and Pearl to a Fourth of July party for over a hundred of their closest lesbian friends. There's talk of how much work it was to be a successful lesbian before "gay was in fashion." And Tammy jokes about having to beat the women off with a "lesbian stick." A drunken Pearl bares her breasts to the throng of women (offscreen). A rotund man wears barely there swim trunks.
Most of the film's thumps and bumps are offshoots of Tammy's crazy, pratfalling choices. For example, while fumbling in her car's back seat, she hits a deer. The animal gets up and runs away, but Tammy's nose is bloodied from hitting the windshield. She crashes a Jet Ski against a dock at full throttle and scrapes the side of a car against a tree. She ends up in a wrestling match with a teen girl and her boyfriend.
Tammy and Co. fire bomb their car and set their damaged Jet Ski aflame in the lake. Tammy makes everybody think she has a gun while committing a robbery. Her dad offers to kill her ex.
Crude or Profane Language
Twenty-plus f-words and 50 or so s-words. Fifteen or more uses of "a‑‑" are piled on for good measure, as are a handful of uses each of "b‑‑ch," "h‑‑‑" and "d‑‑n." God's and Jesus' names are together misused well over 30 times; God's name is paired up with "d‑‑n" quite often. Caustic references are made to male and female body parts ("d‑‑k," "pr‑‑k," "t‑t"). Middle fingers get flipped.
Drug and Alcohol Content
As soon as Tammy and Pearl hit the road, it's more than evident that Tammy's granny has a big problem with alcohol. She starts drinking beer and taking slugs from a whiskey bottle almost immediately. And the elderly woman pulls a reluctant Tammy into her booze-swilling vortex as well.
After their first drunken debacle, Tammy tries to tone the drinking down, but Pearl races in the other direction, letting the metaphorical hounds loose by regularly mixing hard liquor with everything from a slushy drink to Oxycontin pills she scored from a pusher back home. Booze flows freely at everything from a Western barbecue bar to a Fourth of July party. At one point, Pearl agrees to buy a case of beer for a pair of teenagers.
By film's end, though, Pearl has joined AA and appears to be getting healthier.
Other Negative Elements
While in her drunken cups, Pearl calls Tammy a fat loser. When she's fired from her job at a burger joint, Tammy retaliates by shaking her dandruff into some of the food and licking the tops of finished sandwiches. She later robs a similar restaurant to get bail money for Pearl.
From time to time, a talented actor or actress comes along who can hit a punch line just right. These special comic entertainers seemingly, on instinct alone, know exactly which pratfall, turn of phrase or double take will get us chuckling. And while they're at it, they can also make us care about their characters. We see something vulnerable in their eyes, for instance, and we suddenly feel protective of these loudmouth oddballs who were so over the top just moments before.
Melissa McCarthy is that kind of exceptional performer. And in that light, she can be something of a gift onscreen if given the right material to work with. Unfortunately, her movies so far are almost universally more punishment than present.
Tammy, co-written by McCarthy and her writer/director hubby Ben Falcone, is a one-dimensional sludge-fest of a film that once again sets up a big, sloppy, foulmouthed and sometimes cruel stereotype (with a soft spot down deep!) for McCarthy to wade into with gregarious middle-finger-flipping glee. She and her gritty grandmother then head off on an addlepated road trip that includes drunken driving, drunken bar-hopping, drunken jail time, drunken debauchery and drunken squabbles (at an all-lesbian Fourth of July party). Did I mention yet that there was lots of alcohol involved?
There is, finally, a positive denouement—five minutes of happy ending that even raunchy-comedy-obsessed audiences seem to subliminally expect. But those facile "I'm getting better now" moments feel utterly tagged on. And even with a golden girl actress driving things, they don't begin to make the previous 90 minutes of low road ribaldry worth the trip.