Mini Reviews (July 2014)
I'll Follow You Down, Tammy
I'll Follow You Down (July 6/14)
Though it boasts an irresistible (and seemingly foolproof) sci-fi premise, I'll Follow You Down suffers from a sedentary and hopelessly melodramatic storyline that slowly-but-surely renders its few positive attributes moot. The movie follows Haley Joel Osment's Erol as he's drawn into the mystery of his father's (Rufus Sewell's Gabe) disappearance more than a decade ago, with the narrative kicked into motion by the surprising revelation that Gabe successfully invented a time machine and was killed in 1947 under suspicious circumstances. Along with the help of his scientist grandfather (Victor Garber's Sal), Erol embarks on a quest to both continue his father's work and prevent his untimely death. Filmmaker Richie Mehta has infused I'll Follow You Down with a deliberate pace that is, at the outset, not too problematic, with the movie's character-building opening half hour laying the groundwork for what could (and should) have been a solid little drama. Osment's compelling work as the film's protagonist certainly goes a long way towards perpetuating the promising atmosphere, while the initial inclusion of sci-fi elements seems to be paving the way for a second half rife with engrossing, Back to the Future-like plot twists and developments. Mehta's screenplay, however, places an all-too-consistent emphasis on the characters' increasingly tedious dealings, as the writer/director devotes the bulk of I'll Follow You Down's screentime to Erol's ongoing efforts at deciding whether or not to go through with the time-traveling escapade - which results in a palpably meandering midsection that's often far more repetitive than one might've liked (ie Erol changes his mind twice based on a personal tragedy). By the time the film does embrace its central conceit, in an anticlimactic final stretch that's clearly been hindered by a shoestring budget, I'll Follow You Down has established itself as a disappointingly half-baked endeavor that feels, for the most part, like a padded-out episode of The Outer Limits.
Tammy (July 7/14)
Written by Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy, Tammy follows McCarthy's boisterous title character as she loses her job and embarks on a freewheeling road trip with her feisty grandmother (Susan Sarandon's Pearl). It's ultimately clear that Tammy improves a great deal as it progresses, as the movie, in its initial stages, seems to be offering just another variation on McCarthy's well-worn (and increasingly tedious) schtick - with Falcone and McCarthy's screenplay placing the central character in a handful of egregiously broad situations (eg Tammy's encounter with a dying deer). There's little doubt, however, that director Falcone does a nice job of slowly drawing the viewer into the proceedings, as the first-time filmmaker employs a refreshingly low-key sensibility that paves the way for an episodic, almost character-study-like midsection - with the effectiveness of this stretch heightened by McCarthy's surprisingly textured work as the increasingly sympathetic protagonist. (It doesn't hurt, either, that Falcone has peppered the supporting cast with a number of rock-solid performers, including Mark Duplass, Allison Janney, and Kathy Bates.) And although Falcone and McCarthy can't resist the temptation to throw the protagonist in a few unreasonably silly situations, Tammy builds to a final half hour that's much more involving and heartfelt than one might've anticipated - with the highlight undoubtedly a touching sequence between McCarthy and Bates' respective characters. The end result is a decent comedy/drama that hopefully marks McCarthy's first step towards a more varied selection of roles, as the actress demonstrates an impressive range here that indicates an ability to tackle more than just broadly-conceived comic-relief characters.