Comedy shouldn’t be code for compromised or bad writing. It’s as if some writers slough-off the need for structure perhaps hoping that the “laughs” will constitute popularity, and that no one will notice structural issues, but that’s simply not so. Such was my discovery last night when I went to see the movie, Tammy.
What’s not to love about Melissa McCarthy? She is quick-witted, garden-fresh (always ready to serve-up some juicy ad-libbing), and she’s absolutely hilarious, donning such box-office hits like: Bridesmaids, Identity Thief, The Back-up Plan, and The Heat (to name a few). McCarthy produced and co-wrote Tammy with her husband Ben Falcone.
McCarthy gives the audience more of the same – the arrogant tough girl, who humorously has no respect for humanity, but underneath her hard, calloused shell, she is a lost, vulnerable, victimized gal that needs some serious TLC.
I’m not surprised that Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating of 23%. In my estimation, that’s fairly accurate. The comedy is unexciting and unoriginal, and consequently, the character and the plot move aimlessly with no real direction, and while this might seem minor, no one laughed. A comedy that doesn’t drive the audience to laughter is nothing short of a flop.
Tammy reminds me of a bad country western song. You know the type… Sick, sorry and busted, broke, disgusted and depressed; I’ve been cheated on, ripped-off, abused and I’m a proficient loser with nowhere to run. It’s a never-ending victims saga. What else can go wrong, right?
Tammy is having far more than a bad hair day; she has totaled her car after running into a deer—a deer that is seemingly dead until it suddenly resurrects after Tammy lies down on the road and blows on it (mouth-to-mouth is out of the question). The saga continues with one blow after another, starting with her getting fired from Topper Jack’s fast food restaurant. Broke, disgusted and depressed, Tammy hits the road with her drunken, over-sexed, unappreciated, younger-than-life grandmother (Susan Sarandon, who still looks amazing with gray hair).
It’s a seeming perfect combination plate…Grandma has the loot and Tammy feels the need to get out of dodge. However, these two renegades are not Thelma & Louise (sorry Susan…you were better as Louise). In truth, I’m not sure what purpose this road trip serves, and this is a huge problem since 90 percent of the film takes place on the road. The first 15-20 minutes of the film feels like a stand-up comedy act where the comedian overshoots to get a laugh from the audience. It becomes difficult to get engaged with the lead character and laugh.
The characters and the plot are underdeveloped, and what happened to the promise of the premise? There is no promise and there is no premise. It is a film loaded with implausibility from the story line to the casting. While McCarthy can entertain the best of an audience, if obnoxious and brash behavior happens to be your thing, there is no variance or engaging presence on screen, and that’s an issue. This isn’t about her size either, but it is about the fact that Tammy gives us nothing new or tangible that makes us care. While action moves a story forward, this film is entirely dependent on circumstances moving everything to a rather predictable end.
Certainly every good comedy uses chaos as a means to drive the plot forward and establish the sense of need for transformation in the character. The protagonist in a well-written comedy should go on the journey of a lifetime. But, even though Tammy is on a road trip, her trip is anticipated and rather dull.
Writers of comedy should study Jerry Lewis. Lewis was a comedic master, as an actor and a writer. Lewis was able to create multifaceted characters that exemplified flawed humanity at it’s greatest. His ability to put a comedic spin on human tragedy was incredible.
Comedy is the most difficult genre to write, and requires just as much structure and writing genius as every other genre.