This particular game is worth playing.
Every few years there’s a comedy that plays with a convention in a fresh and entertaining way. Buddy movie, bromantic comedy, whatever label you want to slap on it, Tag is very comfortable with what it is and it does what it does well.
There are many things about Tag that remind me of the first time I saw The Hangover and that’s not just because it shares a cast member, Ed Helms. The bonds between friends, the struggle to maintain them and how men deal with changes in their group dynamic and personal circumstances are all themes that are played out in both movies. Additionally, both movies have taken these core elements and presented them in a unique and refreshing way, finding their own voice and just having the courage to go for it.
You probably know by now that Tag is based on a true story. When they were nine-years-old, a group of tight-knit friends created a game of tag that they played for the duration of the month of May. Every year, for thirty years, it continued, regardless of where they were or what they were doing. That didn’t change until one of the group, who had never been tagged, is believed to be about to quit. Now, the game is on more than ever.
The ensemble cast boasts Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Jake Johnson and Hannibal Buress as the taggers alongside Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb, and Rashida Jones. Annabelle Wallis plays the Wall Street Journal journalist who comes along for the ride and captures the story of the guys’ game and friendship.
Director Jeff Tomsic cut his teeth over the last decade with shorts, TV, and comedy specials but this is the first movie he’s directed. The way he effortlessly and stylishly choreographs the whole piece is impressive. What’s as, if not more, impressive is the performances he gets out of Renner, Hamm, Helms, Johnson, and Buress, which are pitch perfect and have a natural flow that adds an authenticity often lacking in the genre. The majority of the main cast members have a comedy pedigree but special mention has to go to Renner who doesn’t but takes to it like a duck to water.
A major reason for Tag succeeding is that the script is on point. It doesn’t feel forced and it doesn’t feel like it is merely a series of tropes or clichés even though it plays with many of them. What you end up with is a movie that nestles nicely between familiar and fresh.
There is one thing that is a thorn in the side of Tag and that’s the fact that a number of the tagging set pieces have lost their impact somewhat as a result of the trailer. Admittedly, it’s hard to get around that because you have to sell the laughs to get people to see the movie but the laughs are rarely as big when you know what the jokes are in advance. That said, there are so many other strong gags in there, some subtle and some very much not, that will surprise and hit the mark.
If anything, I’d have liked to have seen Tag really earn its R-rating and go a bit harder. While there are a few moments that are close to the bone, I think it could have taken the whole thing a bit further. Regardless, it’s worth checking out.