Tammy (2014)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates
Extras: Extended and Theatrical Cuts, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Road Trip Checklist

Rarely have the words “Extended Cut” on a Blu-ray sleeve filled me with more dread than when I saw them plastered across the top of the packaging for “Tammy,” a witless comedy that felt excruciatingly long in its original 97-minute theatrical release. Thankfully, as much thought and effort has gone into the assembly of this so-called “extended” version as into every other aspect of “Tammy,” so it’s only about three minutes longer than the theatrical cut, with the only major change being an added scene tacked on to the end that’s as lame as everything that precedes it. In either version, “Tammy” is a spectacularly awful movie, a “comedy” so bereft of laughs that if it was released with subtitles one might mistake it for some kind of elaborate Godardian experiment—an inquiry into what a farce without jokes might look like. That’s because most of the time “Tammy” is not merely bad, it doesn’t even seem to be trying; it’s a collection of set-ups for comic payoffs that never come. If “Tammy” is not the worst movie ever released, it’s only because a handful of people with talent—like Kathy Bates, who commits herself admirably to an underwritten role—allowed themselves to dignify this travesty with their participation.

By their own accounts, “Tammy” was a labor of love for Melissa McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, two likable comic actors who exhibit absolutely no talent for writing, producing, or directing. They share credit on the script, which answers the question of how little plot a movie can contain and still be considered a viable release for a major studio. It tells the story of the title character (played by McCarthy), an obnoxious fast food worker who loses her job and her husband in the same day. This inspires her to hit the road with her alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon, a long way from “Bull Durham” and “Dead Man Walking”); they drive around a little, meet a couple of guys, visit a lesbian cousin, and…that’s about it. Nothing much happens, and the dramatic moments that do occur come out of nowhere—the only laughs in the film are unintentional, in the scenes where “Tammy” suddenly starts trying to pass itself off as some kind of searing dysfunctional family drama.

The rest of the time, “Tammy” comes across like the world’s longest, most expensive, ill-fated improv show—every scene is two or three times longer than it needs to be to make its point, every joke is clumsily underlined and poorly timed, and every actor mugs shamelessly to compensate for the fact that they have nothing to play. The best thing one can say for Falcone’s direction is that he occasionally gets the camera in focus and aimed in the general direction of the actors; for the most part, he takes the excruciatingly slipshod material and makes it even worse with his clunky framing and meat cleaver editing. You know you’re in trouble from the opening logos, when Falcone plays McCarthy singing along with The Outfield’s “Your Love” underneath the Warner Bros. and New Line insignia as a lead-in to the visual excrement that is to follow. This is the first, but far from the last, time that the filmmakers try to use a popular or kitschy song as a substitute for content—and thank God, because if it weren’t for the occasional toe-tapping music cues there would be absolutely nothing to make the interminable experience of watching “Tammy” endurable.

As far as the Blu-ray transfer goes, it’s a completely faithful rendering of a horrible looking movie. The whole film has a flat, unforgiving lighting style that adds to the depressing quality of the whole affair—I’ve seen documentaries on strip-mining that made their people look more attractive. That said, the 1080p reproduction of the picture in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio is as good as one can ask for, no better or worse than what audiences were subjected to during the theatrical release.

The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix is excellent, provided one ignores what it’s showcasing; the dialogue, music, and effects are expertly balanced and crystal clear – if only the jokes being told were worth hearing.

The Blu-ray Disc contains both the 97-minute theatrical and 100-minute extended cuts of the movie, along with about ten minutes of deleted scenes and alternate takes that are no more or less essential than the material Falcone chose to keep. There’s also a three-minute gag reel and a four-minute featurette with McCarthy and Falcone that both confirm something I suspected when I first saw “Tammy” last summer: the people who made it had a hell of a lot more fun making it than anyone will have watching it.