Review: Tag is a ridiculously entertaining and heartwarming nod to the kid in all of us.
Based on a true story, Tag is a film about a group of friends who played tag every May for 23 years. Yes, you read that right, there was a group of grown ass men that decided to get together, once a year for an entire month, to play tag for 23 years in a row. Their whacky and unbelievable game of tag became a story in the Wall Street Journal back in 2013 and knowing that strange stories can often make for fun or enjoyable movies, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that story of adults playing tag was made into a feature-length film.
Tag stars Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, and Jeremy Renner as five childhood friends that have played tag every May despite living far away from one another. When Hoagie (Helms) learns that Jerry ( Renner) is about to settle down, he is determined to tag him at least once before he ties the knot. Knowing that he can’t do it alone, Hoagie travels around the United States to reunite his friends, Randy (Johnson), Callahan (Hamm), and Sable (Buress) so they can assist him in finally tagging Jerry.
When I first saw the trailer for Tag, I immediately thought to myself, “this is going to be so stupid, and I have no desire to see this.” I realize that as a film lover and critic, I am supposed to keep an open mind, but if I am being honest, most critics have a hard time keeping an open mind considering all the bad ideas that eventually get turned into movies. However, to my complete and total surprise, I was very entertained by Tag and found myself, not only smiling but laughing pretty consistently throughout the film.
With that being said, I don’t think that Tag is the type of film that a lot of critics will like. It is lighthearted fluff but its fun and entertaining fluff. If someone in Hollywood wrote a screenplay about a group of guys playing tag as adults, I doubt it would have worked but knowing that there was a real group of guys who played tag for 23 years makes the film that much more interesting and effective. What also helps is that this is a story that has a lot of heart to it. These guys are celebrating their friendship and are out enjoying life and having fun together. As most begin to group up, we tend to lose track of what it was to enjoy the little things in life and have fun. While watching a group of guys attempt to tag one another in various locations isn’t exactly the most mature thing to do, it is hard to deny that the idea isn’t fun while also reminding you of what it was like to be a kid who played with his friends without a care in the world.
Jake Johnson, Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, and Jeremy Renner all look as though they are having the time of their lives in this film. This is honestly one of those dream projects where a bunch of actors and actresses received a paycheck while having fun and acting like children. While seeing all these different types of actors together may seem a bit odd at first, when you sit back and think about the people that you were friends with in middle school and high school, it all starts to make sense. These actors play characters with very different personalities that on the surface don’t exactly seem to mesh well, but this game of tag is what ultimately keeps them together. There is something so incredibly endearing seeing how a stupid kids game can keep a friendship alive while also bringing so much joy and happiness to a group grown-ups.
Even though there are five male characters at the center of this story, there are several female characters who are a big part of this crazy world. Annabelle Wallis plays Rebecca, the Wall Street Journal reporter covering the story. Leslie Bibb plays Jerry’s soon to be wife. The gorgeous Isla Fisher plays Hoagie’s wife, Anna. And Rashida Jones plays Cheryl, the high school crush of Randy and Callahan. Each of the female characters has a purpose and add not only to the storyline but generate some genuine laughs. There is a great line where Rebecca casually mentions that her covering this story is why print journalism is dying. There is also a hilarious joke about a miscarriage that ends up being one of the film’s funniest moments.
While I found myself thoroughly entertained and amused by Tag, I do have to point out two scenes that I did not like in the film. The first one that I didn’t like was the whole introduction to Hannibal Buress’ character being in therapy and having this fear of penises. It was a bizarre introduction to the character and one that was never addressed again at any point in the film. I also didn’t like the scene where the guys end up going to Jerry’s Gym where they meet Thomas Middleditch who plays a guy that works at the gym. This scene is jarring and feels completely out of place. A lot of this scene features a lot of talk about sucking dick while Thomas Middleditch’s character keeps accusing the guys of being homophobic. I do wish they cut this scene out of the final film because it not only took me out of the story but felt entirely out of place and produced not a single laugh from anyone in my audience.
Tag is the feature film directorial debut of television director Jeff Tomsic, and I was very impressed with what he managed to pull off in this film. Each one of the tag sequences are a ton of fun to watch. Tomsic uses many different types of shots, cameras, and angles to film these scene which makes each one feel unique and exciting. You feel with certain scenes as though you are part of an action film complete with slow motion and voice-over explaining how the scene will play out. I thought every single tag sequence was done in such a way that each one felt very different from the last.
I think it goes without saying that Tag won’t work for everyone, but I found the film to be refreshing and a nice change of pace from the typical summer comedy. Tag is a ridiculously good time at the movies with a story that celebrates friendship while reminding the viewer to embrace their inner-child by having some fun every now and again. Tag is an entertaining film with a story that features genuine heart. Tag is one of those films that the more I thought about it after seeing it, the more I enjoyed it. It may get lost in the sea of summer blockbusters, but I do recommend it and seeing it with a friend or two. It may even inspire a whole new generation of tag players.