Tag (2018)
Tag (2018)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: June 15th, 2018 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jeff Tomsic Actors: Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Jeremy Renner, Annabelle Wallis, Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb, Rashida Jones, Brian Dennehy, Nora Dunn, Steve Berg

 


 

I

n order to retain their youthful dispositions, despite the inevitable onset of age, a group of close-knit friends have maintained the same game of tag ever since childhood. For over thirty years, during the month of May, the competition of “tag” begins anew for Hogan “Hoagie” Malloy (Ed Helms), Jerry Pierce (Jeremy Renner), Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm), Randy “Chilli” Cilliano (Jake Johnson), and Kevin Sable (Hannibal Buress). When Hogan informs the others of Jerry’s intention to retire from the game, the gang of pranksters decides to team up for one final shot at beating the hitherto “untagged” champion of the group. Heading back to their hometown of Spokane, Washington to crash Jerry’s wedding to Susan Rollins (Leslie Bibb), the misfits plan to stop at nothing to finally take down their undefeated friend. When Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca Crosby (Annabelle Wallis) uncovers the details of the long-running contest, she follows the men to document the extreme lengths they’ll go – and the boundaries they’ll cross – to make sure Jerry is “it.”

“Tag” is inspired by a true story, which is typically an easily dismissible phrase. However, the fact that the script is based on an actual Wall Street Journal article by Russell Adams means that it isn’t as wildly fictionalized as “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” or “Fargo.” Nevertheless, it raises the stakes on just how flimsy a premise can be for a theatrical endeavor – as well as why the total death of print journalism draws ever nearer.

The opening sequence is surprisingly amusing, as an accomplished veterinarian applies for lowly janitorial duties at a major firm, merely as a ruse to get close to the CEO, who happens to be a target for the perpetual game of tag. The participants are trying not to get old, which is a feasible excuse for keeping up a children’s activity long after they’ve become successful businessmen, even though they also harbor a great many mental health issues – none of which are adequately addressed, but rather used as playgrounds for rambunctious tagging (such as during the middle of a therapy session). Even their professions are ignored, as if to suggest that no level of maturation could cause them to desist with immaturity. Cursing in the wrong moments is also disappointing, though drugs and booze are handled more comedically. “Guys – we’re too old …” begins one of them, before he’s quickly silenced by further reckless playfulness.

The introductions unfold as if collecting together a Dirty Dozen or an Ocean’s heisting team or even avenging superheroes, building up protagonists for the most nonsensical of movie plots. Along the way, they recruit an attractive blonde just for the sex appeal, since she rarely participates in anything and, despite serving as the audience’s disbelieving perspective, never absorbs the various rules, bylaws, amendments, and truces that govern the spirit of competition in a way that viewers would be unable to figure out on their own. Instead, she goes along with the breaking-and-entering, the bribery, and the kidnapping (by far the best scene in the film), mistakingly thinking that she’s a fly on the wall and not an accomplice to crime. Fortunately, the other significant female role, Isla Fisher as Hogan’s wife, steals the show, nailing the best one-liners and generally enjoying herself as an overenthusiastic, vicious cheerleader and supporter for the inane instances of subterfuge, reconnaissance, psychological warfare, and other such elements of militaristic tag-based missions. It’s particularly exciting that the rare comic relief woman in a predominantly male cast has the greatest impact on the laughs.

Some of the film is so incredibly stupid, it’s funny. Spontaneous slapstick (and some shocking stunts) gives the picture an action movie (and sometimes horror movie) sensibility, yet it tends to take the dedication to the game much too far, too often. Infiltrating an office or an AA meeting or even a wedding works in the context of this story, as they’re realistic settings. But when Jerry orchestrates deadly booby-traps in the forested outskirts of a golf course, the over-the-top shenanigans briefly enter the realm of otherworldly. In its attempts to exaggerate the moderate hijinks of the true-to-life tale, “Tag” occasionally exceeds the limitations of reasonable comedy; it becomes completely unbelievable. Uncomfortable moral dilemmas are fine; kung fu fights and chloroform attacks just don’t fit into the boundaries of realism that this breezy bit of escapism desperately needed to observe. Plus, the lack of a resolution makes the whole thing just that much less credible.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10