Movie Review ~ Tammy

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The Facts:

Synopsis: After losing her job and learning that her husband has been unfaithful, a woman hits the road with her profane, hard-drinking grandmother.

Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Nat Faxon, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh

Director: Ben Falcone

Rated: R

Running Length: 96 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (0/10)

Review: There’s a special place in cinema hell for movies like Tammy. Movies so bad, so rancidly unfunny that shelf space has been reserved for them in the fiery pit right next to most Adam Sandler films, Xanadu, Exit to Eden, Cool as Ice, This is 40, and Nacho Libre. What earns Tammy higher honors than most is how it squanders every single thing it has going for it: a popular (if fatally misused) lead, a stellar cast of gifted comedy veterans and/or Oscar winners, and a prime summer spot from a top studio. Yet it’s all for naught as the movie starts off bad and only gets worse over the next punishing 90 minutes.

It’s way past April Fool’s Day but go ahead and send your worst enemy to see Tammy anyway, preferably at an evening show where they’ll shell out nearly $20 to suffer through the unbalanced comedic misery. For you see, Tammy is the awful gift that keeps on giving; never once taking into consideration that it has no laughs, no likable characters, and is as unpleasant as a Silkwood shower after a bad sunburn.

The movie is downright uncomfortable from the get go as it opens on an unkempt Melissa McCarthy driving to work while stuffing potato chips into her mouth and then running over a deer that she then tries to resuscitate. Bloody and covered in animal mess, Tammy eventually shows up to work where her boss (Ben Falcone, Enough Said, McCarthy’s true partner in film crime seeing that he’s not only her husband but the co-writer and director) promptly fires her. Before you can say “It can’t get worse, can it?” it does when Tammy arrives home to find her husband (Nat Faxon, The Way Way Back) having a romantic dinner with a neighbor (Toni Collette, Muriel’s Wedding). Faxon and Collette’s few scenes are so under rehearsed and awkward that my only conclusion is that they must have been visiting the set for the day and did this under duress or as a favor.

With no job and no husband, Tammy walks a few paces down the block to her parents’ house where she has a brief encounter with her unsympathetic mom (Allison Janney, Bad Words, only 11 years older than McCarthy) before heading off on a sorta road trip with her boozy grandmother (Susan Sarandon, Cloud Atlas, 13 years older than Janney). Sarandon was a last minute replacement for Shirley MacLaine and evidently no one bothered to redesign any costumes or wigs because Sarandon looks positively awful…and younger than Janney. With no old age make-up to be seen and the kind of grey mop of a crazy cat lady wig usually reserved for a haunted house, Sarandon may be the least convincing old person ever seen on screen. The Oscar winner is usually pretty game for anything but McCarthy and Falcone’s script is so unfocused that she’s never afforded the opportunity to really make something of her aging alcoholic granny.

No, instead of trying to instill some life into the tired old road trip formula, McCarthy and Falcone manage to find new ways to make traveling cross country boring as hell. The problem is that McCarthy keeps attempting to beat everyone to a certain punchline…and in doing so winds up making it worse for herself. Instead of this being the kind of R-rated female-driven raunch fest that’s made a comeback in the last several years, it’s a painfully dull series of scenes featuring McCarthy’s buffoonish and grating style of comedy. Where is the winning sincerity that made her an overnight star (and an unlikely but deserving Oscar nominee) in Bridesmaids? Instead of continuing on that route of using her comedic skills for good, she’s been wasting her gifts in garbage like Identity Thief, The Heat, and cameos (This is 40, The Hangover Part III) meant to be funny that come off as irritating.

Everything about McCarthy’s performance seems familiar…mostly because it’s just a rehash of the simpleton characters she’s played onscreen and in increasingly slack appearances as host of Saturday Night Live. There was a time when I thought McCarthy had it all in the bag, but it’s becoming crystal clear that she’s a comic with limited longevity even though her off screen persona suggests someone you want to have an 80s style sleepover with. McCarthy (and the audience) deserves better than this…but as the co-writer and producer of Tammy she can’t blame anyone but herself.

The one redeeming piece of Tammy is a heart to heart scene between McCarthy and Kathy Bates (Titanic, playing a wise old lesbian) that, though remarkably genuine, comes too late in the game to change my overall feeling toward the picture. The scene offered a glimmer of the poignant comedy I think McCarthy may have at one time been aiming for but it’s gone in a flash in favor of more inane dialogue and slapdash film-making.

Truly terrible, Tammy is another nail in McCarthy’s career coffin she appears to be more than happy to be lying in. It’s the kind of film where you sink lower and lower in your seat the more banal it becomes. The audience I saw the film with started off laughing heartily but soon trailed off into sparse uncomfortable titters as everyone became aware just how rotten it all was. I can’t imagine I’ll see a worse film in 2014 and think that anyone that makes it to the end deserves some sort of certificate of achievement. Avoid at all possible costs (but do take my advice and send your nemesis to a midnight screening).

The Silver Bullet ~ Tammy

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Synopsis: After losing her job and learning that her husband has been unfaithful, a woman hits the road with her profane, hard-drinking grandmother.

Release Date:  July 2, 2014

Thoughts: Ok…let me just say something that no one seems really willing to say: Melissa McCarthy has not delivered on the promise put forth in her rightfully praised breakthrough (and Oscar nominated) performance in Bridesmaids.  She just hasn’t.  She hasn’t.  You can disagree all you want but having watched McCarthy rehash the same character in films like Identity Thief, This is 40, The Hangover Part III, and The Heat not to mention her last severely awful hosting gig at Saturday Night Live I’m just not on her bandwagon anymore.  Like The Heat, this first trailer for Tammy has zero laughs, finding McCarthy pulling the same shtick we’ve seen her do countless times.  That’s depressing considering the impressive roster of actors involved with the movie like Susan Sarandon (Jeff, Who Lives at Home), Dan Aykroyd (This is My Life), Kathy Bates (Titanic: 3D), and Allison Janney (The Way Way Back).  I’m actually dreading this movie.

Movie Review ~ The Way, Way Back

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Over the course of his summer break, a teenager comes into his own thanks in part to the friendship he strikes up with a manager at a local water park.

Stars: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph and Liam James, Amanda Peet, Rob Corddry

Director: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 103 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (9/10)

Review: In the days and weeks since I caught a screening of The Way, Way Back I’ve taken in quite a few other films across the cinematic spectrum.  At the end of each film there was only one movie in my mind and it was The Way, Way Back.  While I tend to refrain from overselling a film (lest I lead my readers astray) when you have a picture of this quality you have to stand up and shout it out.

With all the reading I do on film and upcoming projects, this was a film I kept hearing good things about after a successful screening at the Sundance Film Festival.  When the trailer was released I was surprised at how much interesting material was packed in and that after all was said and done I still wanted to see more.  As a huge fan of 2011’s The Descendants, I was particularly curious to see what its Oscar winning screenwriters Nat Faxon and Jim Rash would devise for their follow-up to that quirky dramedy that packed a huge emotional punch.

For a film that could be seen as a mish-mash of genres from Meatballs-style summer shenanigans to family drama to coming of age heartbreak The Way, Way Back is for the most part quite focused.  That’s thanks in large part to the Faxon/Rash script that seems nicely trimmed of any excess fat and provides some wonderfully diverse actors to play against type in a manner that doesn’t seem forced.

We all know that Steve Carell can float between comedy (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) and drama (Dan in Real Life) but what he shows us here is that he can believably play a hard-edged two face with little to no redemptive features.   We see this right away when he quizzes the shy son (Liam James) of his girlfriend (Toni Collette, Muriel’s Wedding) to see how he’d rate himself on a scale of 1-10.  Prodding the teen to give an answer while the mom and Carell’s own teenager daughter doze in the car ride to their summer beach retreat, he gets the boy to give a response and then skillfully tears him down.

Arriving in a coastal Martha’s Vineyard-esque hamlet, the car isn’t even unpacked when boozy neighbor Allison Janney (…first do no harm) bursts out of her house to welcome the blended semi-family.  Janney should be nicknamed Old Reliable because she never fails in creating a memorable scene-stealer and this is no different.  If anything, Janney hopefully will get some major award recognition at the end of the year for a nuanced take on the stereotypical lush who can’t keep her opinions to herself.

As the boy silently skulks through the first few days where Carell continues to brow beat him in a way that no one seems to catch on to, he finally wanders into a local water park and meets the head lifeguard (Sam Rockwell, Iron Man 2) who winds up taking the boy under his wing.  Clearly starved for attention, the relationship that builds between Rockwell and James is sweetly winning because it comes with no strings or artifice.  Rockwell’s character may be a jokester but he can spot that this kid needs a friend and provides that for him – as well as opening his eyes to the fact that life is what you make of it not what someone tells you it should be.

Also co-directing, Faxon and Rash cast themselves in small roles that fit their personas and don’t seem like they are taking advantage of their power (I’m looking at you, M. Night Shyamalan).  Rounding out the cast are fine turns by Maya Rudolph as Rockwell’s superior that does her fair share of eye rolling, Amanda Peet and Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies, Pain & Gain) as friends of Carell, and AnnaSophia Robb as Janney’s daughter who catches the eye of our young lead.  Collette is, as ever, completely winning even though it’s frustrating to see how long she turns a blind eye to Carell’s attitude toward her son.

The film, though, belongs to Rockwell (fingers crossed an Oscar nomination is in store for him) and James as they navigate a summer filled with the right amount of fun in the sun, conversations about acceptance that ring true, and personal journeys that carry these characters upward and onward.  By the time the film reaches its conclusion it has won the audiences affection and wraps things up with a powerful final image that tells us everything we need to know about what happens next.

More than any movie in recent memory, I was sad to see The Way, Way Back come to an end.  These are characters I think many of us can identify with because as the film tagline deftly illustrates, “We’ve all been there.”  Yes, we’ve all been there and hopefully most of us have found our way back.

The Silver Bullet ~ The Way, Way Back

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Synopsis: Over the course of his summer break, a teenager comes into his own thanks in part to the friendship he strikes up with one of the park’s managers.

Release Date:  July 5, 2013

Thoughts: Here’s a trailer that has pretty much everything you could ask for in a comedy: a great cast, the promise of laughs not shown in the trailer, and a set-up reminiscent of the easy-going summer comedies from the 80’s and 90’s.  What surprises me is that no mention is made that the film is the directional debut of the Oscar-winning screenwriters of The Descendants (Nat Faxon and Jim Rash).  I was a huge fan of the off-beat humor in that film so am very much looking forward to seeing what Faxon/Rash have cooked up for this summertime indie that could become a sleeper hit.