Tammy Continues the “HAHA, SHE’S FAT” Shtick of Melissa McCarthy

Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) is a mess. After striking a deer with her car on her way to work at fast-food joint Topper Jack’s, Tammy shows up late and gets fired by her boss, Keith (Ben Falcone). When her car won’t start, she walks miles back to her house, where she finds her husband, Greg (Nat Faxon), having dinner with their next-door neighbor, Missi (Toni Collette), with whom Greg’s been having an affair. Frustrated, Tammy begs her mother, Deb (Allison Janney), to help her out, but Deb refuses. That’s when Tammy’s crazy, alcoholic grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), offers to go on a road trip with her. Together, Tammy and Pearl bond over their misfortunes in life.

While Tammy isn’t totally devoid of funny moments (In fact, all of the Topper Jack’s scenes were hysterical), the movie just doesn’t have it. From the uneven script penned by Melissa McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone (who also directed the film) to the overused caricatures and jokes, Tammy suffers way more than its titular character does. Sure, the trailer was funny, but it promised us a fun blockbuster that it just couldn’t deliver no matter how hard it tried (and it tried hard).

By far, the most devastating thing about the movie, in my opinion, is that Tammy had so many good actors from which it could’ve drawn comedic strength, yet it failed to utilize them beyond secondary or background interactions to the main interaction between McCarthy and Susan Sarandon. I mean, come on…Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Dan Aykroyd, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, and Sandra Oh? How could any writer just let these actors sit there and make awkward faces while the lead character falls all over the scenery? (Although, mad props to having a majority female cast. That’s cool.)

Even the “emotional appeal” of the story between McCarthy’s Tammy and Sarandon’s Pearl was shallow. Alcoholic grandmother who drifts apart from her hot-mess granddaughter, though they’re equally as screwed up? That’s a solid foundation for parallelism and character growth. But the movie only uses this story for (yet again) background to Tammy’s shenanigans. Think of it like trying to paste several YouTube videos together in order to make a cohesive story. Yeah, that’s exactly what Tammy feels like.

My biggest beef, however, is Melissa McCarthy. I know, I know…she’s America’s Sweetheart, and she’s changing the Hollywood game. I agree that it’s wonderful to see a woman lead box office successes without conforming to Hollywood body standards or falling into the “women’s comedy” niche trap (Hint: rom-com). But my problem with her is that’s she destructive to both women in comedy and how society views weight by playing the same character in every movie.

BridesmaidsIdentity ThiefThe HeatTammy—all of the material McCarthy is given revolves around her character being a fat, disgusting, hypermasculine idiot (which is even more upsetting when I remember McCarthy co-wrote Tammy). I’m sure part of that is because people (namely men) don’t think women are funny unless they’re unattractive or assimilate to what’s regarded as “traditional male humor” (e.g., bodily functions jokes, physical comedy). But how does perpetuating this characterization help comedy actresses?

Sure, it takes a pioneer or two to help other women in comedy get a foot in the door—and, in that sense, McCarthy is doing loads for women. That being said, her shtick that’s bringing in audiences “like flies to shit” (to quote Tammy) isn’t a progressive one. It’s an “If you can’t beat them, join them” shtick. Basically, her comedy furthers the idea that women aren’t funny…unless they act like men, whose comedy consistently sells, even when it’s f***ing awful (See: any Adam Sandler movie from the last decade). And it’s a goddamn headache.

And then, of course, there’s the joking about her weight. Why must every goddamn joke in every one of her goddamn movies be rooted in her weight? We get it. She’s a large woman. No one took this much time to remind us that Chris Farley was large, so why the big deal?

And it’s not even like McCarthy playing this character (or the others) is a “F*** you, body shamers” that showcases her confidence in her own body. No, it’s a never-ending gag that makes her weight the butt of every joke, which only seems to fuel the fire that allows asshole critics like Rex Reed to call her “a hippo” or men to think women can’t be both pretty and large (or pretty and funny, for that matter).

Overall, Tammy relies on the same Melissa McCarthy character you can see in every one of her movies. She’s big, she’s loud, she falls on things, she eats junk food, she’s an idiot, she makes awkward sexual advances—it’s getting really tired. With Bridesmaids, McCarthy was a secondary character whose sole purpose was to be the “comic relief” and “voice of reason” foil for the lead character. But when McCarthy, herself, takes on the lead in Tammy, she acts like she’s a secondary character, which makes it impossible to see her as anything other than a one-trick pony. My suggestion? Save it for Netflix. If you’ve seen one Melissa McCarthy movie, you’ve seen them all.

Tammy: C+

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