Now that she’s done literally smacking some sense into people and taking down drug cartels, Melissa McCarthy is ready to rob a fast food restaurant. At least, her character Tammy is, in the teaser trailer for her new film of the same name. Co-written by McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, and directed by the latter, Tammy follows a woman who is fired from her job at a fast food joint, and comes home to find her husband has been having an affair. In an attempt to escape from her problems, she borrows a car from her hard-drinking, foul-mouthed grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon), who wants in on the adventure. The film also stars Kathy Bates, Mark Duplass, Allison Janney, Dan Akyroyd, and Nat Faxon.
From what is revealed in the trailer, it seems like Tammy will be reminiscent of McCarthy’s last odd-couple road trip movie Identity Thief, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for the rest of the film. Despite becoming a major force in comedy with her performance in Bridesmaids, McCarthy’s filmography since has been somewhat spotty. Yes, there was the excellent The Heat last summer, but before that there was Identity Thief, The Hangover III, and her CBS comedy Mike & Molly, none of which have been particularly well-received. Much of that lackluster reception is likely due to the fact that all of those projects rely on forcing McCarthy into one-note characters that only utilize the same schtick for comedy.
Part of what made McCarthy’s character in Bridesmaids so hilarious was that she had so many different layers; yes, she was unapologetically brash and obnoxious, but she was also smart, kind, and caring, as well as the kind of person who couldn’t walk away from a puppy. McCarthy played all of those different elements perfectly, knew how to give her softer moments some edge, and allowed Megan to be riotously funny without losing any of that depth. Similarly, Mullins, her character in The Heat had more to her than met the eye, and her issues with her family, her desire to protect her brother, and her knowledge of the streets she serves all helped to create a character that felt three-dimensional, and didn’t rely on one joke, repeated over and over.
Which was exactly the problem with Identity Thief. The comedy in the film came primarily from watching McCarthy fall down, break things, or put Jason Bateman’s character into situations where he felt uncomfortable, so when the plot attempted to shoehorn in a backstory to explain why Diana behaved in such a way, it felt sloppy. There wasn’t enough depth for the character to support such a backstory, because the audience had just spent the last hour and a half watching a film based on a one joke premise. And yes, Mike & Molly, which started out a comedy about two people finding love despite their personal obstacles, has re-booted its premise in order to capitalize on what has become McCarthy’s schtick – loud, obnoxious and inappropriate – even though it meant changing who the character of Molly is entirely.
Of course, it makes sense that movies and television would want to capitalize on that persona. Clearly, audiences who enjoyed Bridesmaids enjoyed watching McCarthy drink, curse, and hit on people, and so they would be likely to watch her do it again, in a different setting. However, if the focus is only on the schtick, the project as a whole suffers, and too many bad films in too short a period of time could make audiences sick of watchng McCarthy just do the same thing – and that could be already happening, if the teaser for Tammy is any indication of what the whole film is like.
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The teaser is funny, there’s no doubt about that. McCarthy is charismatic and hilarious in every role that she plays, and even managed to inject some life into the otherwise bland Identity Thief. But, in the end, there’s only so much of McCarthy falling down that we can watch before the joke starts to feel a little tired. If there’s no substance to support the joke, then the film will wear out its welcome relatively quickly, which will make audiences less inclined to check out any of McCarthy’s projects that come afterwards. Look at Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell: both were well-loved comedians at the top of their game who had a hard time getting out of the roles they had become pigeonholed into. As the quality of their work declined, so did the public’s opinion of them.
It would be a shame to see the same fate befall McCarthy, who has proven herself to be not only a talented comedienne, but also an actress capable of tackling a variety of roles. She first rose to fame as Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls, a character who was sweet and somewhat reserved, but also someone that McCarthy was able to inject some eccentricity and humor into. She was extremely funny in the role, but ever since Bridesmaids certified her as a star, her characters have been less like Sookie – realistic, layered and unreliant on schtick – and more like Diana and the new Molly.
Since Tammy was written by McCarthy and Falcone, we’re hoping that there’s enough depth in the film itself to keep Tammy from becoming another caricature. We’d love to see McCarthy have another hit film under her belt, and we’d also love to see her get the chance to play another three-dimensional role, especially because the schtick is starting to get old. The clip from Tammy is funny on its own, but could we all really sit through two hours of that one joke? If Tammy manages to aoid that one-joke preimse and becomes a hit, both critically and commercially, McCarthy will be able to avoid being typecast in that one, specific role, which would not only help keep her filmography from declining in quality, but also allow her to explore other roles, and bring her talents to a variety of characters.
McCarthy does have another film with Paul Feig lined up for the future, and since he’s been involved with both Bridesmaids and The Heat, it’s likely that no matter how poorly Tammy does, we will forget all about it the second Susan Cooper hits theaters. However, we’re hoping that neither she nor we will have to solely rely on her collaborations with Feig in order to see performances from McCarthy that are both funny and grounded.
Tammy is set to hit theaters on July 2, 2014.