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Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Mark Duplass, Gary Cole, Allison Janney, Kathy Bates, Nat Faxon, Dan Aykroyd, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Ben Falcone

Director: Ben Falcone

Anyone hoping for a revamp of the wistfully kitsch Debbie Reynolds movie from the 1950s is in for a rude awakening here. Fans of McCarthy from The Heat, Bridesmaids and Identity Thief, though, may also be taken aback - as her first solo starring vehicle is not so much a comedy (indeed, there are almost no big laughs) as a heartwarming, if raucous girl-bonding road trip. So it's appropriate that co-star Sarandon is along for the ride as one half of the ultimate variation on this theme in Thelma & Louise.

Age differences are a problem here, however, as Sarandon, even in a frizzy grey wig a young-looking 67, is supposed to be grandmother to barrel-of-fun McCarthy who, at 43, looks, well...43.

In between is 54-year-old Janney as McCarthy's mother, who despairs of this unpredictable pair even before they set out.

But we digress. When her ramshackle car comes into collision with a deer, McCarthy's Tammy finds herself fired for lateness from the burger joint where she works as a waitress. Staggering home, she finds hubby Faxon cooking dinner for his new flame (a criminal waste of the talented Collette) and walks out.

As she subsequently wants to borrow Grandma's car and Grandma can also bankroll the proposed trip, Tammy has to take the alcoholic old reprobate (who conveniently forgets her pills) along with her, as she sets out for Niagara Falls.

When Grandma lands in jail, Tammy has to find $3000 for bail and tries robbing her old diner with a bag over her head, before they both flee to a lesbian commune headed by Bates. Oh yes, and there's romance for Tammy and Granny as well.

McCarthy is her bull-in-a-china-shop self for most of the picture, but the contrasting facets of her character just don't gell: it's like two different people rather than aspects of one. Her gurgling laugh may remind older cinemagoers of Richard Widmark's famous giggle in Kiss of Death. As for her co-star, comedy is obviously not Sarandon's forte, though she does go at it valiantly enough.

Although McCarthy's current popularity is such that the film will probably make a fortune, most will find its various messages uneasily mixed.

David Quinlan

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
96 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 02 Jul 2014