*½/**** Image A- Sound A Extras C
starring Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Kathy Bates
screenplay by Melissa McCarthy & Ben Falcone
directed by Ben Falcone
by Bill Chambers Though in the vein of the crude, crass characters Melissa McCarthy has given us since her breakout performance in Bridesmaids, McCarthy's Tammy swaggers onto the screen with a presumptuousness for which the actress's young but popular big-screen persona can't fully account. Even more than other SNL spinoff Sims like Joe Dirt or Hot Rod, there's something uncannily familiar about Tammy, and the maddening struggle to contextualize her makes her, ironically, all the more inexplicable. Tammy is about the adventure that spirals out from one very bad day for the title heroine: In quick succession, her car hits a deer, she gets fired, and she catches her husband (Nat Faxon) wining and dining their neighbour (Toni Collette, in perhaps the most thankless role of her career). But Tammy's slovenliness, minimum-wage job, and obvious lack of education--she doesn't know what "pattern" means--contrast sharply with details like the good housekeeping of her home, Faxon's zombie-like unflappability, and the mis-typecasting of Allison Janney in soccer-ready Solondz mode as her mom. A shorthand bit of characterization the filmmakers seem to nurture (by putting Tammy on a jet ski and casting Steve Little) sees the overbearing Tammy as the distaff equivalent to Kenny Powers of "Eastbound and Down"--but Kenny had legitimate talent and success behind him, thus explaining, if not justifying, not only his monstrous ego, but also some of the slack people cut him. Without either that foundational backstory or the luxury of an established cultural identity, Tammy remains a private joke between McCarthy and her co-writer/director/husband, Ben Falcone.