Don't show up late for Melissa McCarthy's raucous jape Tammy.
The opening scene in which her train-wreck title character gets fired from her fast-food job is the funniest part of the film. Let's just say that in her mustard- and dirt-colored uniform, Tammy does not go gentle into that good parking lot.
The job loss is but one of the setbacks that propels Tammy on a road trip with her drunken, horny grandmother (a miscast Susan Sarandon). Their slapstick trip plays out like a country song, veering from honky-tonks to holding cells to cheap hotels.
Lots of recognizable actors turn up during their travels, including Gary Cole, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh, Sarah Baker (who's probably going to win an Emmy for her recent turn on Louie), Dan Aykroyd, and The League's Mark Duplass.
McCarthy bum-rushes the role like John Candy with a sour, combative disposition, reacting to every humiliation and rejection with feisty hostility. Through it all she remains oddly confident, especially about her irresistibility to the oppposite sex.
As entertaining as McCarthy is - and she will pratfall through flaming hoops to make you laugh - she plays the sympathy card as determinedly as any comedian since perhaps Jackie Gleason. Go ahead, have your fun. But at some point in every film, McCarthy makes sure you also feel her character's pain.
Not coincidentally, that's the juncture at which Tammy stops being enjoyable and becomes a sodden junket to responsibility and romance.
Until then, this is a genuinely amusing film. Just be sure to arrive punctually.
Tammy **1/2 (Out of four stars)
Directed by Ben Falcone. With Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Mark Duplass. Distributed by Warner Bros.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 mins.
Parent's guide: R (profanity, adult themes).
Playing at: area theaters.