In the Dark: Heavy moments seem out of place in 'Tammy'

In the Dark: Heavy moments seem out of place in 'Tammy'

After seeing this I’ve come to the conclusion that while Susan Sarandon is incapable of making a bad movie, she can certainly be in one. As Tammy’s beer guzzling granny, she elevates this to “just bearable” status, and that in itself is kind of sad because I’m a Melissa McCarthy fan.

Directed by McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone, is his first effort behind the camera, he worked from a script he collaborated on with McCarthy. The story line is barely worthy of screen treatment, and Falcone’s work is uneven at best. But the big question is why the main character of Tammy is such a victim. Shouldn’t we reject this negative old trope?

Why McCarthy would typecast herself is a question I can’t answer, but Tammy is familiar skin for this actress. Slovenly and mouthy, she’s her own worst enemy, barreling her way through life in a tacky tee and some poly pants. In the first five minutes, she wrecks her car, loses her job and finds out her husband is cheating on her.

Her response is to leave town, but as her mother reminds her, she’s done this before only to turn around a come back — 10 minutes later. Determined to beat her own odds, Tammy agrees to take her grandmother Pearl (Sarandon) with her if she’ll let her have her Cadillac. The catch is Pearl wants to see Niagara Falls, the No. 1 item on her bucket list. But this movie loses its way long before they reach the Canadian border.

Blessed with an unbelievable cast of veterans, some of whom only have a line or two like Dan Ackroyd, who plays Tammy’s father, this movie also includes Kathy Bates as Tammy’s lesbian cousin and Sandra Oh as her partner, Mark Duplass as a love interest for Tammy, Allison Janney as Tammy’s mother, and Nat Faxon, Toni Collette and Gary Cole in other small roles.

But even their contributions can’t save what is billed as a comedy but has some heavy moments that belong in another movie. It’s hard to believe Pearl is just a harmless eccentric old lady when she goes on a drunken black-out rant and calls Tammy a fat slob. The fact that she says it at a big party while in front of a live microphone is beyond humiliating.

McCarthy is usually at her best when she goes off script, but here all the jokes are as stale and tasteless as a loaf of old bread. A more experienced director might have gotten things back on track, but we’ll never know.

Documentary playlist

Two documentaries available now for download or DVD rental are worth your time. The first, “Tim’s Vermeer,” involves a fascinating experiment by San Antonio inventor Tim Jenison, who is obsessed with learning the secret behind the Dutch painter’s photo-realistic oil paintings. For anyone who appreciates the work of Johannes Vermeer, this is a must see. Best known for “The Girl with the Pearl Earring,” Vermeer’s unique style has been presumed to have incorporated other techniques rather than the naked eye that allowed him to capture and play with light to create depth and the vibrant colors in his works. The film follows Jenison on his journey from Vermeer’s home of Delft in the Netherlands to Buckingham Palace, then back to San Antonio where he recreates Vermeer’s studio to test his theory. If you enjoy a true mystery that holds your attention, this is it.

Earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, one of the documentaries receiving a lot of attention was “Life Itself” based on the memoir of film critic Roger Ebert. Sadly, Ebert, who had been fighting a losing battle with jaw cancer, died before the film was finished, but his wife, Chaz, was in Park City, along with director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”), for the premiere. Ebert, who along with Gene Siskel was responsible for bringing film criticism into the mainstream, was also the greatest advocate for cinema that ever lived. As the film shows, he could be a supercilious ass, but surprisingly tender and passionate as well. He was a fascinating figure and this is a fitting tribute.