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updated: 7/1/2014 1:28 PM

McCarthy's 'Tammy' no comic whammy

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  • Pearl (Susan Sarandon) and her granddaughter (Melissa McCarthy) share a rare peaceful moment in "Tammy."

      Pearl (Susan Sarandon) and her granddaughter (Melissa McCarthy) share a rare peaceful moment in "Tammy."

  • Video: TAMMY trailer

 
 

In Melissa McCarthy's new comedy "Tammy," both a deer and a human appear to be dead, dead, dead.

But it turns out they're not, not, not.

The only thing actually dead in "Tammy," at least during most of its 96-minute running time, would be the riotous sense of fun that McCarthy usually brings to her roles.

Here, the jokes hit with the accuracy of bullets in a Michael Bay movie.

In "Tammy" -- directed by her husband, co-producer and co-star Ben Falcone -- Plainfield native McCarthy recycles her signature character, a foul-mouthed, self-centered, pushy, working-class blowhard, here named Tammy, a not-so-lovable loser at life and love.

She totals her car striking a deer, then attempts artificial respiration. Her burger joint boss (Falcone) fires her, prompting a prolonged hissy fit exit that struggles for laughs.

She discovers her hubby (Nat Faxon) with another woman (a slumming Toni Collette) in a comically flatlined scene. When Tammy's mom (Allison Janney) refuses to give her a car, Tammy's alcoholic grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) volunteers her car, plus $6,000 in cash, if Tammy will whisk her away from her boring life.

Road trip!

Along the way to Niagra Falls (Pearl always wanted to see the place), the pair meets Gary Cole's hound-dogging Earl and his dullard, straight-arrow son Bobby (Mark Duplass) at a bar.

Senior citizens possessing libidos has been a cheap and time-honored comedy device, but when Earl and Pearl do the dance of the wild bunnies in his back seat right outside the bar's front door, the lacking comic crackle provokes mild discomfort.

"Tammy" ultimately shifts to a story that wants to be sweet and sincere, but the screenplay (by McCarthy and Falcone) doesn't justify the transition. (What? A 37-day jail sentence resets Tammy's personality?)

The big head-scratcher in "Tammy" is the odd casting. McCarthy is 43. Janney is 54. Sarandon is 67. However you do the math, this family has some serious Dr. Phil-level problems to work out.

Not that Sarandon looks 67. Here's a case where the actress needed to really frump herself up and be grandmotherly as the role required.

Instead, Sarandon appears to be prepping for the 2015 AARP calendar.

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