This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Melissa McCarthy in a scene from "Tammy."

Tammy hits the road, with a splat

There is playing to your strengths and there is cringing overkill and with the road comedy Tammy, Melissa McCarthy is getting awfully close to the latter.


1.5 stars (out of four)

Rated: 14A

There is playing to your strengths and there is cringing overkill and with the road comedy Tammy, Melissa McCarthy is getting awfully close to the latter.

Her aggressive comic style works best in small bursts in an ensemble cast, as her Oscar-nominated turn in Bridesmaids hilariously confirmed. She can also succeed if she’s paired with an equally go-for-broke partner, as she was with Sandra Bullock in last year’s summer hit The Heat.

Left to carry most of the laugh load, however, McCarthy just isn’t ready for prime time, especially since she has yet to move past the impulsive loudmouth character that brought her fame.

She co-wrote this mean-spirited and talent-squandering film with her comedian husband Ben Falcone, who also acts and makes his directing debut. The pair prove themselves tone deaf when it comes to family projects.

McCarthy’s titular Tammy is a walking time bomb, or rather a driving one.

After nearly killing a deer she carelessly struck on the highway, she arrives late for her job at a small Illinois burger joint and immediately gets fired by her martinet of a manager (Falcone).

On her way out the door, hurling oaths, Tammy retaliates by contaminating trays of food — and the “fun” has only just begun. She arrives tired and sweaty at her abode to find her husband (Nat Faxon) having a romantic dinner with their next-door neighbour (Toni Collette).

Tammy gets precious little sympathy from her mother Deb (Allison Janney) when she tearfully shows up moments later at her childhood home, demanding the keys to mom’s car so she can get the hell out of Hicksville. Deb refuses, having seen too many outbursts like these in the past.

But Tammy finds a willing co-conspirator in her grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon) who not only has a car and a wad of cash but also a yen to see Niagara Falls before Deb shoves her into a nursing home.

Before you can say Thelma and Louise, the gals are tooling down the highway, illegally hoisting brewskis to the tune of Canned Heat’s Going Up The Country (guess Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild was unavailable).

How’d you guess that Pearl would also turn out to be a troublemaker? She’s into booze and sex, both of which are provided by a rowdy farmer (Gary Cole), much to the discomfort of his uptight son (Mark Duplass).

Tammy, meanwhile, seems determined to continue making a public spectacle of herself, as she rudely sets upon any person or machine that crosses her path. Brace yourself for confrontations with cops, liquor store clerks, water toy renters and burger stand drones, along with the inevitable third act bid for redemption and romance.

None of this is remotely mirthful — as good as she is, Sarandon lacks the comic timing of a Sandra Bullock or Kristen Wiig — and some of it is painful to watch.

Such as in a barroom scene, where Tammy sets out to prove she’s catnip to males boldly propositioning two men seated nearby.

When they politely turn her down, her response is to insinuate that they must be gay.

Homophobic much? There’s a lot of such crude humour in the film, which you expect from McCarthy, but what are we to make of the unspoken ageism in the film? It reinforces Hollywood’s implicit message that women over 40 have to play kooky or maternal characters.

McCarthy is 43, yet Janney, 54, is playing her mother while Sarandon, 67, is her grandmother. How does this make any sense outside of Hollywood?

The story could have been much better funnier had the three women played friends instead of multi-generational relations.

And why stop there? Make the film a true ensemble comedy by making better use of the very funny Toni Collette, and other amusing actors who are regrettably reduced to cameos: Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh and Dan Aykroyd.

But then Tammy is really only about Melissa McCarthy, which is where the problem begins and ends.

Peter Howell is a syndicated Toronto Star movie critic.

Just Posted

Updated: SUV smashes through fences and deck in Anders

Driver taken to hospital after SUV veered off 30th Avenue into Anders

Art on Red Deer billboard a reminder of aboriginal women’s strength

Joane Cardinal-Schubert’s image is part of Resilience Project, shown from coast to coast

Red Deer’s new ‘equity co-ordinator’ will promote tolerance

Andrea Lacoursiere was hired by city with Alberta Human Rights funding

More bridge work this summer in Red Deer’s Coronation Park

The park’s north bridge is being rebuilt to ensure safety

Man badly injured in off-road vehicle collision on Saturday

Incident happened in Mountain View County about 10:50 p.m.

CFIA inspects after video shows pigs crammed into B.C. transport truck

The video shows pigs piled on top of one another in a transport truck on a “sweltering” hot day last week

Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber falls to Bryce Harper in Home Run Derby final

WASHINGTON — Nationals Park was eerily quiet late Monday when Kyle Schwarber… Continue reading

Lava crashes through roof of Hawaii tour boat, injuring 23

HONOLULU — An explosion caused by lava oozing into the ocean sent… Continue reading

Banff holds blessing ceremony with Indigenous elders before letting bison roam

BANFF, Alta. — Several Indigenous elders were flown by helicopter into the… Continue reading

Research expedition looks at unseen depths of Labrador Sea ecosystem

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Last summer, a team of scientists returned from… Continue reading

Protesters camped outside Saskatchewan legislature taking province to court

REGINA — Protesters camped outside the Saskatchewan legislature say they are taking… Continue reading

British PM accepts key amendments from hardline Brexiteers

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday accepted amendments to… Continue reading

‘City of icebergs:’ Study says 100s of Arctic glaciers shrinking, disappearing

The statistics in her recently published paper say it all: hundreds of… Continue reading

U.S. hits back with WTO challenge against Canada’s retaliatory tariffs

OTTAWA — The United States fired back Monday at the Canadian government’s… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month