Chuck Koplinski: 'Tammy' is same old act from McCarthy

Chuck Koplinski: 'Tammy' is same old act from McCarthy

Not sure if I am the only one but I've gotten tired of Melissa McCarthy's shtick already.

Though having toiled in film and on television for the better part of a decade, it seems as though the actress just arrived on the scene with her star-making turn in 2011's "Bridesmaids." Since then, she has a hit TV show and four movies under her belt and in following the maxim "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," she's yet to vary the sort of role she plays.

As the lead and co-writer of her latest feature "Tammy," McCarthy makes sure she stays in her comfort zone as a foul-mouthed, obnoxious, rude, ignorant, childish, delusional, abrasive and irresponsible woman who just can't seem get her life together.

If this sounds familiar then you've seen, among others "Identity Thief" and "The Heat," and if there's anything innovative about this film it's that it's a road movie.

Having lost her car, husband and job all in one day, the title character decides to do what she always does when the chips are stacked against her — she runs away. However, she's forced to take her alcoholic grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) with her, as she has a nest egg and car at her disposal.

What ensues is a meandering journey toward a predictable end that allows McCarthy to ham it up as Tammy manages to get into one ridiculous predicament after another.

She leaves her job by defiling food in front of customers; she awkwardly tries to pick up a man and goes down in flames; she robs a fast food joint but is more concerned about scoring hot pies than big money.

These moments and many more are rendered by McCarthy with what's become her trademark routine — initially aggressive, then childish and finally apologetic, all of it rendered in broad strokes with the actress opening her eyes wide, executing a pratfall and sheepishly pandering for our sympathy.

If there's a silver lining here it's Sarandon, a consummate pro who's able to create a sympathetic character despite being handed a rather thinly written part.

Having spent over four decades in front of a camera, delivering honest moments on screen is second nature to the veteran actress and that holds her in good stead here as she's able to imbue Pearl with a sense of familiarity that will ring true with the audience.

Here's a woman who's made many mistakes in her life, continues to make them, is a slave to her addiction and yet we don't hate her or excuse her for her actions.

Sarandon is able to bring a sense of reality to the film that's sorely lacking and the fact that she's acting instead of performing like her co-star makes for an interesting contrast between subtlety and grandstanding.

Really, in the end that winds up being the biggest problem with the film. Every character in it is more interesting than Tammy.

The supporting cast includes Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette and Gary Cole and each of them outshines McCarthy. The reason for this is that these veteran performers aren't pandering for our attention, they're simply doing their jobs, bringing their characters to life as best they can instead of begging for our approval, something that the title character and the woman playing her have in common.

‘Tammy’ ★★ (out of 4)
 
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Mark Duplass, Gary Cole, Nat Faxon, Toni Collette and Ben Falcone.
Directed by Ben Falcone; produced by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and McCarthy; written by Falcone and McCarthy.
 
A Warner Brothers release. 96 minutes. Rated R (language including sexual references.) At the AMC Village Mall 6, Carmike 13 and Savoy 16 IMAX.

Also new in theaters

“Earth” an echo of other better films (★★).

When does a film, obviously inspired by another, segue from being an homage to a blatant ripoff? If a story has a similar plot but some narrative changes, is it considered a variation on a theme or is it really the work of someone with little imagination? I think it's going to rain — Did I roll the windows up on my car?

Those were the questions rattling around in my mind as I tried to stay interested in Dave Green's "Earth to Echo," a blatant copy of Steven Spielberg's "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" that also steals — sorry, borrows — elements from J.J. Abrams' "Super 8." Squarely pitched, at the exclusion of everyone else, to 'tweens, the film seems far longer than its 90 minutes as it contains few surprises, what with going over the well-worn narrative territory that it does.

Having been told their families will have to move because the subdivision where they live is being wiped out, friends to the end Munch (Reese Hartwig), Alex (Teo Halm) and Tuck (Astro) are all dealing with varying levels of depression. Bad enough that they're all outcasts at school but they each have their own issues to contend with. Munch's parents have just gone through a divorce, Alex is a foster child with abandonment issues and Tuck suffers from low self-esteem. And though they're loyal to one another, their friendship will be tested when they stumble upon an alien they dub Echo who's stranded on Earth and needs their help to return to its home world.

Constructed as a scavenger hunt, the three pals take their new alien pal, a metallic owl-like creature that bears more than a passing resemblance to Bubo from the original "Clash of the Titans," to various locations to track down parts of the key needed to start his spacecraft. Yeah, it's pretty simple as plots go yet screenwriter Henry Gayden manages to muck it all up by playing fast and loose with issues of time and geography. The boys' adventure involves them riding their bikes from one town to the next and back again, a distance of some 40 miles round trip. Along the way they stop at a pawnshop, two houses, an arcade, a bar and a junkyard all seemingly during normal business hours — if those hours stretched to 2 in the morning. It simply doesn't make sense and neither does a sequence where our three heroes coincidentally break into the home of Emma (Ella Wahlestedt), a classmate they all have a crush on, where one of the key pieces Echo needs happens to be.

Granted, I am looking at this through the eyes of a slightly cynical adult who's seen more than his fair share of bad movies. Obviously, kids less jaded than I will buy into this premise and be engaged from the get-go. Much of this will be due to the efforts of the young cast who they'll identify with immediately. Hartwig is appealing from the start, blissfully unaware of his awkward nature, winning us over with his innocent smile and natural charm. Halm is very good as well, less demonstrative and at ease in front of the camera in a way that can't be taught. This could be the beginning of a fruitful career for the young actor while Wahlestedt has a sense of pluck and confidence that holds her in good stead. As for Astro, pulling back a bit while on screen would be his best move.

While "Echo" is a harmless piece of entertainment and will succeed in amusing its target audience, its derivative nature lends credence to the notion that originality is dead in Hollywood.

For DVR alerts, film recommendations and movie news, follow Chuck Koplinski on Twitter at @ckoplinski. For his blog, head to news-gazette.com/blogs/cinema-scoping. Koplinski can be reached via email at chuckkoplinski@gmail.com.

Topics (1):Film

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