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Tag (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 8, 2020


TAG (2018)

Starring Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Jeremy Renner, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb, Rashida Jones, Nora Dunn, Steve Berg, Indiana Sifuentes, Trayce Malachi, Jock McKissic, Thomas Middleditch, Al Mitchell, Sebastian Maniscalco, Kate Kneeland, Vince Pisani, Kurt Yue and Brian Dennehy.

Screenplay by Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen.

Directed by Jeff Tomsic.

Distributed by New Line Pictures. 100 minutes. Rated R.

Tag brings up an interesting conundrum for filmmakers – just because something is based on a rather interesting true story, does that make it worthy of being filmed? Based on the evidence of this somewhat amusing, but ultimately rather dumb high-concept comedy, probably not.

Tag is not so much a movie as an hour-and-40-minute long idea looking for an actual storyline.

The movie is based on a bunch of guys who have a running tag game which has been going on for decades, since they were all kids.

“We don’t stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing,” is the group’s mantra, and they claim that they are still close friends all these years later because of this extended game. They dress up, hide, and run goofy scams to get each other.

All of which is a very nice anecdote, or even a human-interest story, but it is not an actual plot.

But, dramatic structure be damned, the filmmakers made it anyway. They take five 30-something guys – Hoagy (Ed Helms), Bob (Jon Hamm), Chilli (Jake Johnson), Sable (Hannibal Buress) and Jerry (Jeremy Renner) – who have been playing every May for years. (From pictures of the real guys over the end credits, it seems there is more like 10-15 people in the real-life game.) There is nothing – not adulthood, jobs, relationships, money or distance – that will stand in the way of the game.

The women around them (Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones and Leslie Bibb) not only humor this childishness, they are charmed by it and often dragged into the fray. (Even though one of the first rules the nine-year-old boys made was “No girls!”) The guys have rules, bylaws and amendments. And whoever is “it” as the clock turns into June has to wear the shame of being the loser for an entire year.

All of them take this silliness way too seriously, and no one takes it more seriously than Jerry, who has never been tagged in the 30-year history of the game. Now, he is about to get married, and his other buddies see it as the perfect opportunity to catch their buddy with his guard down. And Jerry sees this coming, and steps up his game to make sure he is still champion.

Honestly, Jerry is kind of a massive dick. I can’t see why the guys would want to spend 30 minutes playing with this hyper-competitive asshole, much less 30 years. Not that any of these guys are overly likable, but Jerry takes it way over the top.

And strangely, only Sable is thoughtful enough to give the game the proper lack of respect. It’s just a damn game, after all.

The group’s whimsical, odd pastime is discovered by a writer who was interviewing Bob about diabetes and had a total change of heart on the story’s subject when witnessing Hoagy catch up with and tag Bob during their interview. Because diabetes is not as important or interesting as grown men acting like children…

Interestingly, the original Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote about them was a man named Russell Adams, but in the world of the movie, it is a hot female journalist named Rebecca, played by Annabelle Wallis. There is no apparent reason for this; she does not become involved in a potential romantic subplot and she has no particularly glamorous moments. So, why change from a man to a woman? Discuss…

And that is pretty much it. The guys chase each other around; breaking things, knocking down innocent bystanders, destroying property, stealing trap ideas from the Home Alone movies and nearly killing each other. Basically acting like children. For one hour and 40 minutes. We get the point in 20.

Tag has a strong comic cast and is often funny, in a silly, slapstick way. I’m just not sure what the point in telling this tale is. However, if you turn off your mind and just go with it, it’s kind of fun.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: June 15, 2018.

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