It's a relief, after the wretched Identity Thief, to see movies whose makers love Melissa McCarthy as much as audiences do. Identity Thief's comic centerpiece was predicated on the idea that McCarthy having sex is a hilarious gross-out, like she's the pie Jason Biggs once had to fuck. Half an hour later, McCarthy's defiantly horny slob got a makeover and a new wardrobe, and the movie presented this new housebroken McCarthy as if it had discovered something we didn't already know: This crazy woman's actually worthy of love! We know, you idiots.
Tammy, on the other hand, loves McCarthy too much, but it's obliged to: Her husband did direct, after all. Here McCarthy -- who co-wrote with spouse Ben Falcone -- plays dumb rather than badass. Her Tammy is a small-town schlump so addlebrained she's never heard of Neil Armstrong, doesn't know how to pronounce “Mark Twain,” and decides the best way to scare up a couple grand in a crisis is to hold up a fast-food joint. When you see her gliding along on a Jet Ski, you know she'll be crashing it immediately, which might be why Tammy doesn't even bother showing exactly what happens, opting instead for sloppy cutting and some screams.
Even if all that were funny, Tammy would still be a tough sit. Falcone's film is an unsteady mix of broad comedy and indie heart, asking us first to roar at Tammy's ignorance and outrageousness and then to be moved at this lovable misfit muddling toward love, maturity, and a better life. It's like if Sideways starred Ron Burgundy: Who could believe in his minor emotional growth?