SHOULD I SEE IT?
A raunchy comedy with a stellar cast, coupled with the unique nature of the story all adds to a movie that will interest a lot of people.
Hannibal Buress maybe does not get enough credit for how funny he truly is, and Isla Fisher steals many of the scenes she’s in. Tag may not have a clue what kind of movie it wants to be, but it’s never boring.
Tag takes some diversions into dark comedy that some will find hilarious and shocking.
Tag takes some diversions into dark comedy that some will find crude, unfunny, and shocking.
While pretty much always amusing, Tag is a mess of a movie that has no idea what kind of movie it wants to be.
Why not just make a documentary?
One of the more unique “true stories” to make it to the big screen, Tag is based on the real-life exploits of a group of childhood friends, dubbed The Tag Brothers, who have played the youthful game of Tag every May since they were around nine years old. Some thirty-plus years into the game, Hoagie (Ed Helms) has taken the role of ring leader to get his buddies together to finally tag the one person who has evaded tagging through the entire game, Jerry (Jeremy Renner).
Before we get there, we first meet Hoagie is in a hideous disguise, impersonating a janitor while his old friend and corporate CEO, Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm), is being interviewed by Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis), an investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Of course, Hoagie disrupts the interview, slaps his buddy, and Rebecca inexplicably scraps her story of corporate malfeasance within Callahan’s company, for a story on the guys and their game of Tag.
Just go with me here.
The two buddies and their new, ahem, tag along, set out to snatch up perpetually stoned Chilli (Jake Johnson) and anxiety-riddled Sable (Hannibal Buress) to crash Jerry’s wedding, which is, conveniently, set on May 31. You see, per the rules of the game, the last person to be tagged before midnight on May 31 is “it” for 11 months. So, Jerry’s upcoming wedding to Susan (Leslie Bibb), seems like the perfect time to end his perfect streak of never being touched.
As much as this premise sounds ridiculous, and believe me, it is, this is loosely inspired by true events. At our press screening, a couple of the actual Tag Brothers were on hand to introduce the screening (and pontificate on political correctness, but never mind all of that…), sharing that the film is really a story about friendship, connection, and the bonds people can share for much of their lives.
At times, Tag resembles that, but, quite honestly, this movie is a mess and never quite knows what kind of movie it wants to be.
We have action scenes where Jerry appears to be one step away from being a ninja, or action-movie superhero, in the way with which he brandishes weapons and easily stays multiple steps ahead of his friends’ pathetic attempts to tag him. We have stream-of-conscious comedy from the terrific Buress and Johnson’s riffs as a stoner has some fun moments. Isla Fisher nearly steals the show from her male co-stars with a schizophrenic performance as Anna, Hoagie’s wife, who seems just as intensely focused on Jerry getting tagged as the guys seem to be.
Some amusing cameos pop up, with Rashida Jones, Nora Dunn, and Thomas Middleditch all getting screen time. First-time director Jeff Tomsic and writers Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen definitely bring the energy.
However, Tag is not really a movie, as much as just a strung together series of scenes that cobble together the bullet points of a story, seemingly unconcerned about filling in any logical details. Worse yet, it builds to a treacly, overwrought final act that asks for emotions it never really takes the time to earn.
I was entertained by Tag, and the talent on screen is undeniable. And, in all fairness, I did chuckle and laugh fairly often at the sheer absurdity of everything taking place on screen. However, I am not sure that in and of itself makes this a very good movie.
Absent from the fictionalized story are the answers to some very basic questions the film has no interest in answering. Plus, in one extreme example of avoiding a tag, McKittrick and Steilen’s screenplay plays loose and fast with a very sensitive topic. Now, perhaps this is me getting all “snowflake,” because we live in such sensitive and politically correct times (according to a Tag Brother), but some of the shock-and-awe humor the movie goes for just isn’t very funny.
When I think back to the mini-diatribe we heard before the film started, perhaps this is Tag’s ultimate message: Be care free, have fun, loosen up, and don’t forget to laugh.
There is, however, something to be said about becoming the person who can have those awesome, fun times with your bros every year, and, also, create a respectable and responsible life for yourself at the same time.
I am not sure Tag quite understands this, or even wants to. Perhaps it is simply setting out to make movies great again. And while, structurally, Tag makes little sense, there are more than a few moments amusing enough to make you chuckle and smile a few times.
And sometimes that’s enough I suppose.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Annabelle Wallis, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Nora Dunn, Brian Dennehy, Thomas Middleditch, Lil Rel Howery.
Director: Jeff Tomsic
Written by: Rob McKittrick, Mark Steilen (screenplay); Mark Steilen (story)
Based on the Wall Street Journal article, “It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being It” by Russell Adams.
Release Date: June 15, 2018