By: Kevin Jordan (Number9)
Is this really what the Fourth of July has come down to?
Remember when the Fourth of July weekend featured the opening of the biggest movie of the entire summer? From the moment school let out and the summer officially started, everyone looked forward to that date on the calendar because it meant the film with the biggest budget, most dazzling visual effects, most entertaining popcorn flick (usually featuring Will Smith) would be satisfying our senses at the height of the summer. From 1996-2008, here are the movies that dominated that holiday weekend:
Men in Black
Wild Wild West
Scary Movie 2
Men in Black II
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
War of the Worlds
With the exception of Scary Movie 2, every one of the those movies screams blockbuster (!!!). Then, something inexplicable happened in 2009, and the big releases were Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Public Enemies. A cartoon and a Johnny Depp movie that didn’t feature pirates? Was Hollywood changing their thinking, hoping that the holiday weekend would provide a boost to two movies they weren’t very confident in? Were they hoping to squeeze extra money out of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen by opening it the week prior? Were they blackmailed into opening lesser movies by people who wanted to be, you know, outside during the summer time?
2010 got even weirder when the two major releases were Twilight: Eclipse and The Last Airbender. Why would they release a movie aimed specifically at teenage girls on a day known for blowing things up? More importantly, why was M. Night Shyamalan being trusted with the most important weekend of the summer after previously releasing the atrocious Lady in the Water and nearly-as-bad The Village? Did we (the audience) do something to upset Hollywood that they would ruin National Explosion Weekend?
They seemed to realize their mistake and attempted to fix it by releasing Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 2011, The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012, and The Lone Ranger in 2013. Unfortunately, the damage seemed to be done. While Dark of the Moon was exactly what we were expecting, The Amazing Spider-Man was a disappointing and unnecessary retread, and The Lone Ranger was just short of a complete disaster. At this point, Hollywood has completely confused themselves and, in 2014, we’ve somehow ended up with a trio of less-than interesting movies that scream anything but “Today we celebrate our Independence Day!” : Deliver Us From Evil – a random horror flick; Earth to Echo – a movie that hasn’t even been advertised; and Tammy – the next installment of insisting Melissa McCarthy is actually funny. Transformers: Age of Extinction may have been a complete disaster in the story department, but at least things explode. If only that had happened to McCarthy’s completely unsympathetic Tammy, the weekend might have been redeemed.
If you saw any of the trailers for Tammy, you probably voiced the same question I did – what is this movie actually about? After seeing it, I can confidently tell you that it is about absolutely nothing. Seriously, it has no plot. It doesn’t even have a premise. Typically when I say a movie has no plot, what I’m saying is that there was a plot but it was either poorly developed or made no sense. In Tammy’s case, I’m being literal. The movie has no plot. The closest comparison it has is to a biography, but Tammy isn’t telling someone’s life story, just an event from a person’s life. Tammy isn’t even an interesting person. She’s just a fat, stupid slob who runs away from home after getting fired from her job at a fast-food restaurant. That’s not me being mean; the character is purposely written that way. She blames other people for her problems, misuses words throughout the film, she can barely read (mispronouncing “Twain” – as in Mark Twain – while reading a sign), and cheated on her husband (who, in all fairness, was cheating on her as well) with the ice cream man. The best part is that she co-wrote the film with her real-life husband (Ben Falcone), who also directed the film. I’d call it self-deprecating humor except the movie isn’t funny (in fact, Kathy Bates’ character, Lenore, asks Tammy’s grandmother if Tammy even has a sense of humor).
To be fair, much of the audience was laughing at the screen, so there are some people out there that think she’s funny. And that’s okay – there are things I find funny that other people don’t. My problem with the writing is that the things that are supposed to be funny have no impact because there isn’t a story to give them any context. All good comedies (and even bad comedies) rely on the premise and plot to give the jokes a base to launch from and something for the audience to relate to. Office Space is funny because anyone who has worked in an office understands the situation. Horrible Bosses is funny because everyone has had a boss they’ve thought about murdering. Super Troopers is funny because we can all imagine bored cops inventing silly games to keep from shooting themselves after pulling someone over for speeding for the umpteenth time.
The closest thing Tammy gets to as a plot is a road trip with her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) because her grandmother just wants to get out of the house. They aren’t going anywhere in particular or for any reason, so when something written as comedy occurs it usually just comes off as uncomfortable. Examples include: her grandmother being an alcoholic – so drinking is supposed to be funny; her grandmother being a diabetic – so swollen feet are supposed to funny; and her grandmother being kind of slutty – so Tammy sleeping outside of the door of their motel room while her grandmother nails Gary Cole is supposed to funny. The only times I found myself chuckling (and there were very few) were at a couple of Sarandon’s lines and a couple of Bates’ lines. If you start to think about those things, you start to think that maybe this movie is actually a tragedy.
Compounding the terrible writing is the terrible casting. While the movie is filled with very good actors, the roles they fill are not good fits. Allison Janney plays Tammy’s mother and I’ve already told you that Sarandon plays Tammy’s grandmother. The problem is that McCarthy is 43 years old, Janney is 54, and Sarandon is 66. I know that casting often asks us to believe in bizarre age differences, but this one was too much to take because we have eyes and this isn’t radio. McCarthy and Janney look the same age (plus, McCarthy looks like a very old 43) and Sarandon doesn’t look even close to old enough to pass for her grandmother (not to mention the makeup and styling crew barely even tried to make her look older, giving her some grey curls and calling it a day). Janney also has so little screen time that it would have made far more sense to just cut her out completely and make Sarandon Tammy’s mother. I also thought Bates and Sarandon’s roles should have been switched. Bates’ Lenore is a successful, hippie lesbian – a role that seems right up Sarandon’s ally, though Bates gave the best performance in the film by far. Bates would have made a much better mother/grandmother because has the same body shape as McCarthy, she could pull off mean, drunk, and crass without even trying, and has a better comedic delivery than Sarandon. Toss in a pointless cameo by Dan Aykroyd as Tammy’s father (who is Sarandon’s age, no less) – and the severely unfunny Sandra Oh and Toni Collette in bit roles – and you can at least understand where I’m coming from.
As you might have guessed by now, I’m not a fan of McCarthy’s films (or her television shows, for that matter). Bridesmaids was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen (my wife hated it more than I did), Identity Thief was a miserable and unwatchable, and The Heat was unable to crack a smile on my face even though I was borderline delirious on an international flight when I watched it. I was hoping that if I saw Tammy in a crowded theater, I might be more inclined to laugh along with everyone else, but that didn’t work either. Instead, I left the theater missing Will Smith and wondering who decided to replace explosions, special effects, and absurd car chases with a woman who is typecasting herself as disgusting, crass, dumbass with no comedic timing. Ugh. Happy Fourth of July.
Rating: Ask for all your money back, unless you find McCarthy funny, in which case you are on your own.