Is ‘Tammy’ tough enough to take out ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction?’

2.5 out of 4 stars

It may be the most the epic – and most unlikely – Independence Day battle ever: Optimus Prime against a funny fat chick.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” reigned supreme at the box office, earning about $100 million during its domestic debut weekend, but can the fourth installment about shape –shifting robots destroy Melissa McCarthy?

Melissa McCarthy isn't afraid to let it all hang out in Tammy. (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)
Melissa McCarthy isn’t afraid to let it all hang out in “Tammy.” (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

In one corner, it’s nearly three hours of nonstop robots and explosions, while in the other corner is a 5-3 woman who has proved if you’re funny, moviegoers won’t take their eyes off you –  even if you’re, well, I don’t know, about 80 pounds overweight.

Let’s be honest: McCarthy knows she’s fat; she just doesn’t care. She’s comfortable with her body that was once a size 6 but has ballooned along with her stardom. But McCarthy, 43, has  embraced her niche in Hollywood by portraying charming, unkempt loudmouths who can deliver something hysterical at any moment.

She waddles as much as she walks, wears shirts that could pass as curtains and never met a situation she couldn’t make funny or gross, depending on your point of view.

But you know why Hollywood love her? Because what she does at the box office gets studios really, really aroused. You remember “Identity Thief?” She teamed with Jason Bateman to gross $173 million worldwide. And what about “The Heat?” All she did with Sandra Bullock was take a film with a $43 million budget and turn it into a $229 blockbuster when it was all said and done.

Now, you throw in her show-stealing role as Megan in 2011’s Bridesmaids that earned her an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress and you see why Warner Bros. decided to put the spotlight on Hollywood’s biggest star, at least in terms of dress size.

For a budget of $20 million, Warner Bros. hired McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone, to make his directorial debut. The film stars his wife stars as Tammy, a loser who gets fired from her job at a fast food restaurant, comes home to find her husband cheating with much skinnier neighbor and walks down the street to see her mother before fleeing with her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon).

Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon are funny, but not hysterical, in 'Tammy." (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)
Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon are funny, but not hysterical, in ‘Tammy.” (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

As somebody who isn’t skinny, I really, really wanted to write that “Tammy” is so funny you’ll choke on your popcorn, that McCarthy became the first middle-aged overweight woman to carry a movie with a brilliant performance since Kathy Bates in “Misery” in 1990.

But I can’t. It’s the same slapstick comedy, the same kind of one-line jabs that got McCarthy to where she is today, which is a lot farther than any woman with her physique has gotten in quite some time, maybe dating to Rosanne Bahr’s run on TV in the late 1980s and early 90s.

In a nutshell: Tammy and Pearl embark on a journey from their small town in the Midwest toward Niagara Falls. It’s 96 minutes of watching McCarthy say all the wrong things at the wrong times, while watching Pearl get drunk and hook up with an older dude (Gary Cole). Throw in a funny, July 4 lesbian party hosted by Tammy’s gay relative Lenore (Bates) and her partner Susanne (Sandra Oh) and an amusing scene where Tammy robs a fast food restaurant … and you get a movie that will make you smile and chuckle, but not laugh yourself crazy.

And that’s the problem with “Tammy:” It’s a comedy that just not as funny as McCarthy’s past work or recent releases like  “The Other Woman” andNeighbors.” And that creates an even bigger problem: “The Other Woman” gave us Cameron Diaz, Kate Upton and Leslie Mann and plenty of sex, while “Neighbors” gave us a ripped Zac Efron and the very attractive Rose Byrne.

“Tammy” has McCarthy, Sarandon and Bates, who are  all very good actresses cast in the right roles, but there’s a reason Falcone didn’t put them in bikinis.

This may not bode well when “Tammy” at the box office against “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which is filled with hot robots and even hotter humans, namely Mark Wahlberg, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz, Sophia Myles.

But who knows? Did you think McCarthy would ever make it this far when you saw her on “Mike & Molly” on TV for the first time four years ago?

One thing’s clear: McCarthy certainly has taken a bite out of Hollywood.

But after “Tammy,” she may have to be more of a side dish than the main course.