'Tammy' is really just sad

RedEye movie critic, music editor

*1/2 (out of four)

Maybe Melissa McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone, met with studio execs and pitched a movie that would completely reinvent McCarthy’s onscreen persona. Maybe they advocated for a female main character played by McCarthy to not be a foolish, irresponsible mess—that the Oscar nominee (“Bridesmaids”) has done the brash, sexually aggressive character repeatedly, and viewers should see that a woman who weighs more than 100 pounds can have her life and intelligence in reasonably working condition.

I very much hope the spouses had that meeting and were turned down by unimaginative check-signers interested only in what’s (sometimes) worked before. Otherwise, “Tammy” represents the scariest movie of a week that also contains a film about demonic possession (“Deliver Us From Evil”). It’s extremely depressing that McCarthy, the Plainfield, Ill., native who co-wrote the script with her husband (who directed), would saddle herself with a role that borders on unintentional self-parody. The best thing you can say about “Tammy” is that it’s less abrasive than “Identity Thief.” Which you also can say about a thunderstorm.

Fired and separated from her husband in quick succession, Tammy (McCarthy) decides to hit the road with—how’s this for originality—her boozy, raunchy grandma (Susan Sarandon). This either is a rejected “SNL” skit, or a thin knockoff of “The Guilt Trip,” which already was a copy of a copy. Tammy and Granny head from Illinois toward Niagara Falls but get caught up in Kentucky, where the elder woman shacks up with a similarly hard-drinkin’ fella (Gary Cole) and Tammy earns affection from his son (Mark Duplass), who probably will run the other direction as soon as he spends more than five minutes with her.

There’s a laugh or two, especially involving Tammy’s attempt at armed robbery and friendliness toward a victim. If you’ve never seen a McCarthy movie, or a movie, period, (the girl next to me at the screening said “Oh my God” approximately 400,000 times), you may get more chuckles out of “Tammy.” Double that if you generally crack up at everything McCarthy says and does.

I say a talented comedic actress (who almost makes Tammy sweet in quieter scenes that seem totally out of character) should be held to higher standards than rubbing her dirty hair on hamburger buns. Starring roles don’t grow on trees, but it’s a bummer to see McCarthy embrace the phrase, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

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