Tammy isn't a raunchy, wild, slapstick-heavy Step Brothers-style comedy. It may seem as such from its marketing campaign, which features Melissa McCarthy dancing like a goon in the middle of a fast food parking lot before holding up the joint with a fake gun and a paper bag mask. But it's actually a rather serious film, following McCarthy's title character as she treks aimlessly around the Midwest with her alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon) in tow. There are jokes, sure... but they're not very good. More prevalent is the drama - the emotional storyline that sees both Tammy and Grandma Pearl coming to terms with the complications of their lives... but that part is also not particularly good.
Everything about Tammy is unclear. We don't know when we're setting up for a laugh or a whimper. We don't know what we're supposed to think about McCarthy's hero: is she a dolt? A blowhard? A sweet gal with a prickly surface? Does she have any self-awareness at all? Is the silly shtick just overcompensation for sadness? Yes to all. At various points in Tammy, we see McCarthy embody different types of characters, ones that conflict with one another entirely. Just as confusing as the tone of the film is the nature of the woman to whom we're meant to anchor.
But Tammy isn't entirely charmless, oddly. As far from good as its jokes and emotional material seem to sit, they also pretty effectively avoid bad. Tammy stays smack dab in the middle of comedy and drama, but also in the qualitative middle. It's usually pleasant, often dull. It's primary flaw, perhaps, is in its inability to keep us invested in where it is headed. Although we have absolutely no idea what this movie is up to, we very rarely care.
Still, we have to tip our hats to the always charming Sarandon (playing well above her age as McCarthy's grandma), and the comically proficient Gary Cole (an alcoholic himself who aims to woo the wayward Pearl), and a general, if even a little mysterious, air of affability. Tammy won't bust your gut or move you to tears - though it tries to do both - but it won't exactly bore you to tears either. In its unique form, it ends up oddly intriguing. Just... not that intriguing.