Susan Sarandon unleashed, Melissa McCarthy reined in

Susan Sarandon (right) plays her role with such aplomb, she outshines Melissa McCarthy (left). -- PHOTO: WARNER BROS
Susan Sarandon (right) plays her role with such aplomb, she outshines Melissa McCarthy (left). -- PHOTO: WARNER BROS

This show could have been funny had Melissa McCarthy not softened her rough edges, but she is mostly serious

Review Comedy


97 minutes/Now showing/**1/2

The story: After losing her car, job and unfaithful husband, Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) just wants to get into a car and escape from her home that is just next door to her mum's house in South Illinois. Problem is her wild-living, alcoholic grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon) owns the car and insists on going along for the ride to her dream destination of Niagara Falls.

The key question you may ask yourself after watching Tammy is this: If not for the fact that she is a large woman, would Melissa McCarthy be funny?

Probably not.

She makes a whole lot of mirth when her girth gets in the way.

For instance, she is so hefty she needs to jump comically - twice - to get over the counter of the fast food restaurant she is trying to rob; and, waddling like a hippo, she attempts to outrun the cops walking right next to her to arrest her.

But as the more or less normal person depicted here, she looks so ordinary and unremarkable as to make you wish somebody had really let her go completely politically incorrect the way she nailed it in 2013's hilarious buddy-cop comedy with Sandra Bullock, The Heat.

Look, Tammy is fun for two nutty odd-couple pairings: McCarthy and Sarandon as a gal-and-granny combo, and, most bizarrely, Kathy Bates and Sandra Oh as the happiest lesbian couple in the world.

But forget the trailers making Tammy look like another crude and rude fat-person thingy.

McCarthy does that shtick only in bits here, particularly when the lousy men in this female- empowerment flick deserve her rapid-fire foul-mouthed abuse plus the middle-finger treatment as an exclamatory bonus.

Presumably to expand her repertoire, there is a deliberate attempt to cut down her sweat-slob persona and soften those rough edges to test new ground here that is akin to inventing a humanitarian nuclear bomb.

Tammy is mostly female bonding, part road trip and part romantic comedy for McCarthy, who turns into an aw-shucks, lump-in-throat softie over a too-good-to-be-true man (Mark Duplass), who actually brings his drunk, womanising dad (Gary Cole) home after the latter's sexual escapades with grandma Sarandon.

So, for the better part of the movie, McCarthy is a beast reined in and neutered by playing the straight role here and giving the zany part to Sarandon.

Somebody must have seen Seth Rogen go on a road trip with Barbra Streisand in The Guilt Trip (2012) and decided that another voyage with a famous senior citizen is the way to go.

Which is great until you notice that even with a grey wig, Sarandon, still hot at 67, does not look like anybody's - especially not Tammy's - grandma.

And she is so good a performer that, given a free go as a booze-addled, sex-addicted old flirt, she blows McCarthy out of every scene they are in.

Which makes you wish that McCarthy could have been unleashed to just give it straight to the old bird.

Would have been hilarious.