review for The Eyes of Tammy Faye on AllMovie

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000)
by Brian J. Dillard review

The Eyes of Tammy Faye offers an unusual mixture of Horatio Alger fable and traffic-accident gawk-fest. The story of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner's life is so "American dream" in its arc, yet so unlikely in its details, that fans of Dolly Parton, Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, and Judy Garland alike should find some kind of resonance in the tales of her ups and downs. Needless to say, producers/directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato don't have to try hard to keep their snapshot vibrant. They just let the puppeteer/singer/spiritual leader be Tammy Faye for 80 minutes and keep their cameras rolling. The intertitles add color -- how can you not love sock-puppets swathed in shadows who utter phrases like "Into the lion's den...roar!" with real feeling? Yet even this kitsch detail has a dark edge to it -- just like the life of the lady herself. Messner appears on camera pitching talk show ideas to jaded network executives, discussing her makeup secrets, and picking up her new husband from prison after he's released -- all without a single hint of irony or shame. And she cries a lot. Oh, how she cries. The filmmakers intersperse old TV footage with present-day interviews and live-action footage, while drag superstar RuPaul Charles narrates respectfully and unobtrusively. Audiences may well find themselves speaking of poor, triumphant Tammy with a little more respect in their voices after they've seen this utterly entertaining piece of propaganda.