They’re not gonna get him.
In terms of inspiration for a film they don’t get a whole lot odder than Tag, which is based on a story from the Wall Street Journal about a group of 10 adults that spend one month each year playing a game of tag that dates back to their childhood. That number is slashed in half for the movie adaptation with some diversity sprinkled in. Time to find out if that’s a recipe for a good comedy or not.
After more than three decades of playing the same game of tag, childhood friends Hoagie (Ed Helms), Bob (Jon Hamm), Chilli (Jake Johnson) and Sable (Hannibal Buress) are faced with a bit of unexpected news: Jerry (Jeremy Renner) is getting married and retiring at the end of this year, having never been tagged in the history of their game. Led by Hoagie, the group makes it their mission to get Jerry.
Making the situation even more interesting is the presence of Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis), a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who learns of the game when Hoagie interrupts an interview she’s having with Bob. Along with Bob’s overly enthusiastic wife Anna (Isla Fisher), they set about trying to ambush Jerry at various locations and events leading up to his wedding, but Jerry always manages to get the upper hand.
Faced with the prospect of never tagging Jerry, the friends — particularly Hoagie — get increasingly desperate, potentially pushing the game beyond the boundaries of good taste, making it not just about whether they can tag Jerry, but whether they’ll continue to be friends.
There’s a lot of good physical comedy in Tag as the guys take some hellacious falls and blows in their ongoing attempt to not be it. Watching the reckless abandon with which they attempt to get and/or avoid one another is enjoyable, and basically turning Renner into a ninja was a clever touch — as was the slow-motion sequences in which we can read their minds.
Johnson is the funniest part of the film as the stoned out Chili, delivering good lines as he serves as the de facto low man on the totem pole. Fisher also stands out with her manic intensity and vulgarity that seem completely at odds with her gentle exterior. Rashida Jones and former SNL veteran Nora Dunn are funny in smaller roles. A soundtrack full of old-school hip hop was a nice touch.
We aren’t huge fans of Buress, who seems like an odd choice to begin with considering he’s much younger than the other four actors (12 years with Hamm and Renner) and all five are supposed to be the same age. His shtick has a limited shelf life, but at least he’s not overexposed. The same can’t be said of Helms, who is playing his typical awkward role, and is the featured character. We would’ve signed on for more of Johnson and Hamm, and less Helms.
For what’s essentially a dumb comedy for the first two-thirds or more, Tag takes a dark turn in the final act. First, there’s the stuff with Renner and his bride-to-be right before the wedding, and then Helms’ revelation. Both items felt totally out of place. If you’re gonna be a stupid comedy, be a stupid comedy, don’t turn into a melodrama in the final 20 minutes.
THE BONUS FEATURES
Deleted scenes and a gag reel make up the majority of the extras. You might get a few chuckles out of the latter, but odds are you’ll watch both of these sections once and never revisit. The last item is a short featurette about the real people that the film is based on, including some home video footage. It’s worth a watch.
When Tag is satisfied being a mix of silly jokes and slapstick humour it’s a pretty fun time, but the late change of direction was a misstep.