This summer's hands-down disappointment is Tammy, a mistake we should've seen coming. Looking back at the clues, it was right under our noses.
First, the poster art showing Melissa McCarthy's face, declaring Tammy is entirely her show after Roman candle success, swapping punchlines and punches with established movie stars. Tammy shows McCarthy's rolling boulder comedy isn't enough — not with this lazily semi-improvised material — to carry a movie on its own.
Then the trailers that don't reveal much about the story, as it turns out because there isn't much to reveal. Tammy is a road trip movie getting stuck in Kentucky, so those sassy quips while driving come early and not often enough. The trailer leans heavily on one scene — a fast-food robbery — because it's the funniest part of a movie that doesn't want to admit it really isn't a comedy.
Because there isn't much funny about McCarthy's title character, a woman of questionable mental faculties without the moron charm. In rapid succession Tammy loses her car to a colliding deer, her job to good sense, and her husband to another woman. A road trip to Niagara Falls with her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) results, with complications not worth going into.
Tammy is to McCarthy what Everything Must Go was to Will Ferrell, who is, not coincidentally, a producer of this misbegotten film. It's a career stretch requiring a little bait-and-switch marketing, to pull in a comedian's fans. McCarthy tries giving them what's expected from Tammy but the jokes, mean-spirited and ill-timed, result from a screenplay needing more drafts.
Which brings up the central weakness of Tammy that I honestly believed would be a strength. McCarthy co-wrote the script with her husband Ben Falcone (the air marshal she seduces in Bridesmaids), who also makes an inauspicious directing debut. If anyone could harness McCarthy's dynamo presence while protecting her from looking bad, it should be Falcone. Instead, Tammy suggests no one had the heart to tell this hot Hollywood couple that it wasn't working.
One glaring issue is their casting of Sarandon as Tammy's alcoholic, promiscuous grandmother. The Oscar winner should take it as a compliment she is entirely unconvincing as an 80-year-old woman, with a dowdy gray wig and a little latex not concealing a still-vibrant person underneath. The character would work better as an Auntie Mame type more suited to Sarandon.
The letdown of Tammy is clearer in its final minutes, when McCarthy softens her appearance and approach, and we see the same potential for a plus-sized female romantic comedian hinted at the end of Identity Thief, and wouldn't that be swell? You'd think Falcone with this opportunity would want to give that to the woman he loves, instead of expecting Hollywood to deliver.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.