Tina Fey and Robert Carlock have had a fruitful and decades-long creative relationship, one that stretches back to “SNL” in the late 1990s and includes “30 Rock” (both were executive producers) and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (both are co-creators). So expectations have been high for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, their first collaboration for the big screen. Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris, Crazy, Stupid, Love, Focus), the film is Carlock’s adaptation of Kim Barker’s war memoir The Taliban Shuffle. Fey plays Kim Baker (Barker minus a superfluous R), here a television journalist who, in an attempt to jump start her stalled career, takes an assignment in Kabul as the coverage of Operation Enduring Freedom (a debacle regular people call the War in Afghanistan) began losing the public’s attention to the catastrophe in Iraq.

Baker arrives in Afghanistan and quickly enters the “Ka-bubble,” a tight professional and social circle of expat journalists who work hard by day and play harder by night. The film opens three years into her stay with a scene, at the guest residence she shares with other media professionals, that could easily substitute for stock footage of a frat party (unsurprisingly, House of Pain’s “Jump Around” blasts from the speakers). With her boyfriend Chris (Josh Charles), and a stale routine, thousands of miles due west, Kim eventually gets swept into a whirlwind of careerism and hedonism, yes, but also an Eat Pray Love-style journey of personal growth. She develops multiple bonds, with her Arab handler Fahim (played, with mournful nuance, by Christopher Abbott of “Girls” fame), the bombshell reporter Tanya (an always excellent Margot Robbie), the waggish General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton, in top form), the buffoonish Afghan official Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina, somehow in brownface) and the playboy photographer Iain (Martin Freeman, giving us his best Sean Connery). But she also drifts away from her former self and recalibrates her moral compass, for better or worse.

If none of this sounds particularly rip-roaring or hilarious, it’s because Whiskey Tango Foxtrot aims to be neither. The film’s tone wavers by the minute and, as a whole, settles into the dramatic end of tragicomedy. (Its finale is both schmaltzy and flirty.) There are plenty of jokes — some are funny, fewer are sharp — but this is a far cry from the dense, madcap glee of “30 Rock” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” A whiff of comedic familiarity drifts across Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, particularly with regard to, and at the expense of, Fey’s physical appearance (a running gag that makes even less sense without Alec Baldwin delivering the punchlines). If Carlock is a little too familiar with his leading lady, he’s equally uncomfortable juggling these many weighty narratives that span love and war, friendship and opportunism. It’s not Fey’s fault that her Kim Baker seems like a diluted version of Liz Lemon, a character she played with greater pathos on a network sitcom.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a mess of thematic opposites. It praises and then indicts ambition. It champions and then condemns individualism. It celebrates and then skewers an entire profession. Nuance is preferred, but incoherence is inexcusable. If you’re wise, make a drama. If you’re bitter, make a comedy. If you’re a genius, blend the two. Those responsible for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot botch the mix. So it lands with a thud, and twice as hard.

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