It's difficult to decide if the new Melissa McCarthy comedy "Tammy" is such a major disappointment because it's so poorly written and acted or because it is such a monumental waste of talent.

McCarthy -- who has never seen an obnoxious, annoying and distasteful character she didn't want to play -- plays the obnoxious, annoying and distasteful Tammy. After Tammy wrecks her car, loses her job and discovers her husband cheating on her, she decides to run away. Joining her on this trek of self-discovery is her grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon).

Fueled by an unimaginative script, the pair head for Niagara Falls, N.Y., but end up in Louisville, Ky. They must have taken a left turn at Disappointing Lane before getting to Waste Of Time Avenue.

Their road trip humor starts with an alcoholic binge, continues through several more bar stops and eventually comes crashing into what is called "a lesbian Fourth of July party" where there's even more liquor. If you haven't figured it out by now, grandmother and granddaughter have a drinking problem.

They put their glasses down only to commit idiotic actions, such as robbing a fast food restaurant or taking a jet ski ride. Both ideas had the potential to be funny, but the script by McCarthy and her husband/director, Ben Falcone, lapses into bad gags.

Seeing an irate Tammy knock stuff off a shelf or rack is mildly amusing the first time. But -- like almost every so-called joke in the film -- it grows old and cold fast. By the time the movie tries to shake off its comic hangover and find some sweetness, it's way too late.

The failed humor is magnified by the failed use of the outstanding cast. Oscar-winner Sarandon does her best to give the movie some life. But even Dr. Frankenstein couldn't give life to the lifeless jokes Sarandon has to offer. And fellow Oscar winner Kathy Bates has little to do except serve as the voice of reason in a story that is unreasonable.

The most catastrophic waste of talent is the way Oscar nominee Toni Collette is treated. There's no way an actor of this stature and ability should be cast as little more than a set decoration.

"Tammy" has the right cast to be a monster comedy hit. Any potential is beaten to submission by a story that lacks originality and any glimpse of smart humor.

Movie Review

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TAMMY (R). Directed by Ben Falcone; written by Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone. A Warner Bros. Pictures release. At Beacon Cinema (Pittsfield), Berkshire Mall Cinema 10 (Lanesborough), North Adams Movieplex, and Triplex Cinema (Great Barrington). 1 hour 36 minutes

Tammy Melissa McCarthy

Pearl Susan Sarandon

Deb Allison Janney

Earl Gary Cole

Bobby Mark Duplass

Susanne Sandra Oh

Don Dan Aykroyd

Lenore Kathy Bates

Keith Morgan Ben Falcone