There isn’t a doubt that Melissa McCarthy is a comedienne that doesn’t hold anything back to be completely uproarious in most of her movie and TV appearances. But she also probably isn’t for everybody because her movies can also be a little depressing if you’re not into the “everything that can go wrong will” blend that are still around in comedies. She’s taken this idea to the extreme with characters who seem to have pathetic existences and who find or place themselves into outrageous situations. McCarthy has demonstrated this in everything from an Oscar-nominated character in “Bridesmaids” to “Identity Thief” last year.
Now we’re about to see one of her own creations in “Tammy”, which is one of those movies that already presupposes you understand McCarthy’s sense of comedic direction. Those going in for the first time might have the feeling of being hit over the head with a sledgehammer while showing a character who finds herself in the worst possible situations in life. It’s a genre not appreciated by all when it comes to comedy, even if top actors have portrayed such things before.
The Evolution of the Comedy Where Everything Goes Wrong
Comedies from the silents on up to the 1960s were mostly harmless slapstick, and any mishaps or complications were usually one basic thing (or maybe two) that were eventually resolved. Some might argue that Laurel & Hardy started the “everything going wrong” theme based on their lack of ability in walking a street without a mishap occurring. But even that didn’t compare to what comedies would do later, by just taking one or two mishaps and multiplying them tenfold throughout a movie. This experiment attempted to see how the lead character could keep their sanity before going into a rage.
For the sake of comedy, they usually didn’t keep their sanity. One early example is in the 1970 movie “The Out of Towners” with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis. Written by Neil Simon who was a master at creating horrible mishaps in comedy, the story was about a man who has to fly to New York City to do an interview for a possible job promotion. Taking his wife with him, they encounter every conceivable thing that can go wrong with traveling, including missing luggage, hotel mishaps, plus muggings. It even goes beyond that into the near ridiculous, enough where some may prefer going off to do something else halfway into watching.
By the time the remake of the above film was made in 1999, a new shift had occurred in comedies bringing back the concept of everything going to pieces. This time around in the remake, it was even worse, with mishaps Neil Simon couldn’t bring himself to let his characters endure.
Yes, this renaissance started with “There’s Something About Mary” in 1998 where everything from dog bites to specific zipper jams were the name of the game. It led to where things are now in that realm of comedy. This isn’t to say Chevy Chase wasn’t the king of everything going wrong years before in all the “Vacation” movies. And, no, he didn’t keep his sanity either after the 10th thing went to hell.
Will people still be attracted to this type of comedy, especially with Melissa McCarthy’s penchant for creating characters already down on their luck?
Having a Comedic Partner When Things Go Wrong
One thing McCarthy learned recently is that if you’re going to be in movies about things going wrong, it’s a good bet to have someone else sharing in the misfortune. McCarthy can only do so much after a while in dealing with every life arrow without audiences wanting to walk out. In “Tammy”, we’ll be seeing Susan Sarandon playing her grandmother (if you can imagine), despite their real age difference only being about 20 years apart. To some, that might bring connotations of a more comedic and disastrous “Thelma & Louise” since “Tammy” is also a road movie.
Considering Sarandon’s pedigree, it’s hard to imagine McCarthy making a comedy that isn’t going to succeed on some level. Sandra Bullock realized the potential when she teamed up with McCarthy last year in “The Heat”, hence creating a great female comedy team dealing with at least a few things going wrong.
This genre of the worst possible calamities for comedy’s sake may still not go over with even those looking for something edgy. As McCarthy creates enough pathos in the background with her frequently sad characters, you have to think there’s a drama lurking in her mind that we’ll see eventually. Considering many dramas also throw everything into the book in what can go wrong, some people may prefer seeing it there only.
When it comes to the real worst sides of life, far too many people have seen it all to find any comedic irony in seeing it happen to a fictional character.