Since breaking out in 2011's "Bridesmaids," Melissa McCarthy has become a go-to actress for irreverent slapstick shenanigans, as with "Identity Thief" and "The Heat." What she hasn't done is match the combined commercial and critical success of "Bridesmaids" — and her new road-trip comedy "Tammy" doesn't look like it will be the film to buck that trend.
Most reviewers agree that "Tammy," which McCarthy stars in and co-wrote with her husband and director, Ben Falcone, is a misfire.
The Times' Betsy Sharkey says that Falcone, making his directing debut, "shows he's blinded by love. … Unfortunately all that love does not translate into an amusing or poignant movie — both of which the couple is going for in their screenplay collaboration. There are some laughs and, at least on screen, more than a few tears. But it doesn't come together with the kind of satisfying punch a comedy should deliver."
Although McCarthy is "clearly talented," Sharkey writes, "The problem is that she just keeps playing the same card," and it's time to shuffle the deck.
The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday is also tired of McCarthy's shtick, noting that "she's been playing an iteration of her 'Bridesmaids' persona" ever since that movie ignited her career. This time, the actress "blusters and bullies her way through a misbegotten movie that starts badly and ends worse."
Hornaday adds, "'Tammy' is a bummer, not least because McCarthy's fans know she's better than this."
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle says the trouble is that "McCarthy functions better as a supporting player or as an antagonist, as someone relentless and unchanging that another character has to deal with. To make her the focus of a story inevitably means that she has to undergo some kind of transformation, which means going from insensitive to sensitive, from unaware to self-aware … and from funny to not funny."
Another issue, according to LaSalle, is that "Falcone has trouble maintaining a specific tone — the movie wobbles back and forth between sentimentality and silliness, sometimes even within the same scene."
Some critics seem more puzzled by "Tammy" than anything else. The New York Times' Manohla Dargis asks, "How do you solve a problem like Melissa McCarthy? That question feels inescapable after watching her try to powerlift 'Tammy,' her newest and least funny comedy, all by her lonesome."
Ty Burr of the Boston Globe writes, "'Tammy' is something unusual: A congenially terrible comedy. … It just plonks down [McCarthy] and a handful of stellar co-stars without much in the way of a script, storyline, or actual jokes. Yet you may still come out with a smile on your face. It's very odd."
And New York magazine's David Edelstein writes, "I hesitate to label the result as bad or good. It's just … off."
Among the more positive reviews, Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt says "Tammy" is a "broad, helter-skelter farce whose best bits hinge almost entirely on the considerable charms of its star." She adds, "McCarthy is such a force of nature … that she feels more genuine than almost any other woman who's been allowed (oh, show business) to carry her own major Hollywood film, besides possibly her 'Bridesmaids' costar Kristen Wiig. Even when the material falls short, she's never not worth watching."
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