The title of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's strained dark comedy, in which the War in Afghanistan serves as the backdrop for an American woman's self-actualizing journey, is the military phonetic-alphabet rendering of WTF. The mild Islamophobia and highly questionable casting choices in the film call to mind other texting abbreviations -- namely, AYFKMWTS and GTFOOH. In the end, it's an armed-forces acronym dating back to World War II that best describes this dismal project: FUBAR.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is based on reporter Kim Barker's 2011 memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here, the first "r" is dropped from the author's surname, and the film signals her sad-lady status with the bottle of over-40 multivitamins on her desk, the exercise bike she rides in a grim windowless room and the "mildly depressive" boyfriend (Josh Charles) who never seems to be in town. Kim signs up for a three-month assignment in Kabul in 2003, a post she stretches out to years. In the Afghan capital, the diffident journo blooms: She becomes a confident on-air correspondent, pounds both scotch and a Scottish freelance photographer (Martin Freeman) and, in what has become a prerequisite for all Fey vehicles, cabbage-patches to '90s old-school jams.
WTF is essentially Eat Pray Love for embeds, filled with jokes and sight gags that are repeated to ever-stonier spectator silence. When Kim remarks to her fixer, "I know you like your women to be beautiful, mysterious IKEA bags" -- a dig followed by an artlessly inserted sequence of a group of women in blue burkas walking in the square -- we are meant not to be appalled by her bigotry but to chortle along with her forthrightness.