TEA TIME? That is, Long Island Ice Tea.
Credit: Michael Tackett

It’s hard out there for a Tammy. In the space of one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, she loses her car (totaled); her fast-food job (terminated, for car-related tardiness); and her husband (stolen, by toothy neighbor Toni Collette).

In other hands — say, John Cassavetes’ or Charlie Kaufman’s — this could be the beginning of a small, thoughtful drama about losing and finding yourself in failure. But because Tammy is cowritten and played by Melissa McCarthy, it’s a broad, helter-skelter farce whose best bits hinge almost entirely on the considerable charms of its star.

Susan Sarandon, as the boozy grandma Tammy brings along to bankroll her post-life-implosion road trip, is game, sporting a frazzled wig and diabetes-swollen ankle socks (she’s only 24 years older than McCarthy in real life). She never seems totally comfortable with the rhythms of comedy, though. And the script, co-penned with McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone (who also directed), is lumpy. Supporting players — including Mark Duplass as the sweetly droll love interest, Kathy Bates and Sandra Oh as a kind-hearted lesbian couple, and Alison Janney and Dan Aykroyd as Tammy’s clueless parents — never quite get to tap into what they can do.

But the movie hinges, of course, on Tammy. We aren’t invited to admire her: She’s lazy and imperious and thinks Neil Armstrong is the guy who rode his bike in the Tour de France. Still, McCarthy is such a force of nature — she barrels onscreen in a human hurricane of dimples and Crocs and pure, unchecked id — that she feels more genuine than almost any other woman who’s been allowed (oh, show business) to carry her own major Hollywood film, besides possibly her Bridesmaids costar Kristen Wiig. Even when the material falls short, she’s never not worth watching. B

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