Based on a story that’s so utterly bizarre it can only be true – and covered by the Wall Street Journal, no less – Tag, like the recent (but far more successfully executed) Game Night, hopes to find the fun in its simple premise and run with it to the extreme. At times we witness the potential Jeff Tomsic’s film holds, but mostly it stumbles along the way, unable to balance its tone between outlandish stunt-driven comedy and odd, black-witted humour.
The set-up is basic: a group of childhood friends have been playing the game of tag for close to 30 years now. For the month of May each year, Hoagie (Ed Helms), Bob (Jon Hamm), Chilli (Jake Johnson), Sable (Hannibal Buress), and Jerry (Jeremy Renner), take time out of their busy, or in Chilli’s case, not so busy schedules to track each other down, in whatever situation, and “tag” each other. Boys will indeed be boys, and for their latest go around the considerably close-knit quartet of Hoagie, Bob, Chilli and Sable have decided to band together in a bid to tag Jerry, who is yet to be caught.
Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds, but an underwhelming premise doesn’t necessarily equate to an underwhelming feature, and the opening moments of Tag allude to a comedy that could very well work beyond its basis; we are introduced to the competitiveness of Hoagie and Bob when the former gets a job as a janitor at Bob’s company in order to be closer to him. Of course, as Hoagie presents himself as clearly deranged, Bob is in the midst of being interviewed by Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca Crosby (Annabelle Wallis) who spots a crazy good story when she learns of their decades-long game, and promptly joins the boys on their hunt for Jerry.
Jackass-type situations involving golf-cart chases and slow-motion sequences highlighting Jerry’s magician-like perception on how to counter an attack follow, with Tag‘s script seemingly unable to lock down if it wants to celebrate the absurd or perhaps offer commentary on the beauty of male bonding. Whatever the case, Tag is very much a “boys club” comedy as, despite the presence of Wallis, Isla Fisher (as Hoagie’s competitive wife), Leslie Bibb (as Renner’s concerned bride-to-be) and Rashida Jones (as the “one that got away” for both Bob and Chilli), the females on hand range from utterly useless (Jones is sadly wasted) to terribly bland (Wallis is pretty, but that’s about it) with the slightly crazed personalities of Fisher and Bibb’s character presenting some of the more questionable choices on what’s considered comedy; a sequence involving waterboarding and the notion of faked miscarriages likely to cross the line for some audience members.
I can’t deny I laughed here and there throughout Tag. Renner is clearly enjoying himself playing outside the action-heavy material he’s become known for, Buress offers up some of the more subtle comedy moments with his offhand remarks, and a closing credit gag involving the cast performing “Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm” by the Crash Test Dummies is glorious in all its seriousness, but for a movie based on both a fantastical story and a joyous childhood activity, the wit and whimsy is sadly too sporadic.
For one month every year, five highly competitive friends hit the ground running in a no-holds-barred game of tag they’ve been playing since the first grade—risking their necks, their jobs and their relationships to take each other down with the battle cry: “You’re It!” This year, the game coincides with the wedding of their only undefeated player, which should finally make him an easy target. But he knows they’re coming…and he’s ready.
Tag is in cinemas now from June 14th