The newest ensemble comedy Tag is a rousing good time and takes the meaning of being “it” to whole other level.
The story centers on five guys who have been friends since they were kids, and while they’ve all grown up and gone their separate ways, there is one thing that brings them together year after year – their annual game of tag. For the entire month of May, these men fly all over the country to try and get the next guy to be “it” and whoever has been tagged the last, carries that burden through the rest of the year.
Except when the film starts, the circumstances have been heightened. One of the members, Jerry (Jeremy Renner), is getting married in May in their hometown – and he is the one player who has never, EVER been tagged by his friends. Jerry is like a ninja warrior or some kind of badass super spy who has alluded, foiled and just plain out-maneuvered his friends every single time. So, Hoagie (Ed Helms) decides this will be the perfect opportunity to finally tag Jerry because, Hoagie thinks, he’ll be distracted. Hoagie gathers his pals – entrepreneur Callahan (Jon Hamm), slacker Randy (Jake Johnson) and neurotic Sable (Hannibal Buress) – and along with his ultra-competitive wife, Anna (Isla Fisher), he convinces them this will be the year. Of course, none of them have been invited to the wedding because Jerry knows full well what month it is, but the guys are going to crash the damn thing anyway and give it their all.
Oh, also along for the ride is Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis), a Wall Street Journal reporter, who happened to be interviewing Callahan when Hoagie busts in to tag Callahan – and she discovers that these men have been playing the game all these years. She’s completely fascinated with the story and acts as the eyes and ears for the audience in learning about it. The pretty astounding part is that this really happened. The movie is based on a real group of men who have seriously been playing Tag for 30 some-odd years, and the Wall Street Journal published an article about it. One of the best parts of Tag is the end, in which you see the real guys hiding out and sneaking up on their friends to tag them.
The comedy, however, takes its narrative liberties as any worthy movie should. Directed by Jeff Tomsic, there are plenty of slapstick moments and guy-friendly gags that might make you roll your eyes a little. But I’m a sucker for the slow-mo shot, be it in comedies, action movies or whatever, and Tag uses them to the most hilarious effect, especially when the boys are trying to tag Jerry. Renner gets this uber-cool look on his face as he sixth-senses his way around, anticipating his friends’ every move. And when they go for it in slow motion, with their over-exaggerated reactions and pratfalls, I laughed my ass off.
These five actors also really mesh well onscreen together. Helms, Johnson, and Buress all handle the quick-witted improv moments with aplomb because they are some of the best at it. Hamm is quickly becoming one of my favorites because of his versatility and choices he’s making in his post-Mad Men career, while Renner also proves how flexible he can be. Although he must have had a blast doing this because he could incorporate some of those action skills we know he has and looks so damn slick doing it compared to the other actors.
The female cast members also add a fair amount of wonderful color to the proceedings, especially Fisher, who gets to channel her Wedding Crashers character a little bit while taking that aggressive behavior all the way to eleven. Also good is Leslie Bibb, as Jerry’s bride, Susan. You can clearly see why Jerry is marrying her because she can be just as ruthless.
Why Tag succeeds is because it goes beyond just the silly comedy and dives deeper into these guys’ lives, showing how they really have needed each other all these years. The movie is ultimately about friendship and having those people in your life who really know you, warts and all, and will always be there for you. So, yeah, Tag is IT.