Published on June 14th, 2018 | by Harris Dang
Tag – Film Review
Reviewed by Harris Dang on the 12th of June 2018
Roadshow presents a film by Jeff Tomsic
Produced by Todd Garner, Mark Steilen
Written by Rob McKittrick, Mark Steilen, based on the article ‘It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being It’ by Russell Adams
Starring Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis, Rashida Jones, Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb, Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner
Cinematography Larry Blanford
Edited by Josh Crockett
Running Time: 100 minutes
Release Date: the 14th of June 2018
Here’s a comedy premise for you. A bunch of childhood friends play the classic game of tag. Okay, simple enough so far. However, the game of tag has continued through every month of May for the last 30 years. Yep, you’ve read that right. 30 years.
The film is based on a true story where this happened for 23 years. Truth is stranger than fiction, but you can imagine many film producers were flocking to adapt this story into a movie. It has been five years since the Wall Street Journal published an article detailing the game. We now have the simply-titled film Tag. After an extensive background in television, Jeff Tomsic makes his film directorial debut, and has assembled a cast of comedic players. Will the film bring the goofy premise on-screen with hilarious results?
The story follows five childhood friends who have been playing the same game of tag on every month of May for 30 years. All grown up now, we see Hoagie (Ed Helms), Bob (Jon Hamm), Chili (Jake Johnson) and Kevin (Hannibal Buress) reuniting to go after Jerry (Jeremy Renner). He is the lone wolf of the group who has never been tagged.
The news is that Jerry is about to marry Susan (Leslie Bibb) and his wedding is his last hurrah of tag before he retires from the game. With the help of Anna (Isla Fisher), Hoagie’s wife and Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis), a journalist who wants to document this game, the race is on.
The premise for Tag itself is utterly ridiculous, so it’s obvious that the filmmakers are not aiming for any semblance of realism. There are many moments during the game where the film earns its laughs due to their sheer audacity. Several tropes of the action genre are lampooned to hilariously cartoony effect.
One example is when Jerry uses his observational skills to attack or evade the others. It is shown in slow-motion, and lampoons the action scenes in films such as the Sherlock Holmes series and Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer (2014). Another example is when Jerry improvises weapons out of household items, including a purse or a walker, which is reminiscent of the fight choreography of Jackie Chan. It helps that Jeremy Renner is a good sport and executes all the action scenes convincingly and involves himself in the comedy quite well.
The funniest part of the film is when Jerry lures the group into a trap in the forest. Tag uses this setting to make fun of horror and thriller clichés like setting booby traps or psychological warfare. It’s pure lunacy but it serves the premise well and the physical comedy is a lot of fun to watch. From Predator, The Evil Dead, The Blair Witch Project to First Blood, the references are all there. There are also moments where the characters disguise themselves as someone else, even an old lady, and it reaches a funny Looney Tunes vibe that one wishes it could sustain throughout.
The verbal comedy is less successful. The cast do what they can with their roles and the script, but when you break it down (and there really isn’t much breaking down), the characters are not worth caring about. They’re completely selfish, unhinged and chauvinistic people that you would never want to associate with them. The jokes that involve laughing at them are funny, and yet most of the ones that want us to laugh with them fail.
The script was co-written by Rob McKittrick (who wrote the Waiting… [sic] films). It is littered with jokes about fellatio, drug use, masturbation (an actual threat involves exactly that) and profane language. This can be executed with flair, and sometimes there are laughs to be had, particularly from Hannibal Buress, whose oddly inflected line deliveries make rote material work well. Yet when the film jokes about miscarriages ad nauseam, it becomes quite repulsive.
The talents of the actresses are all wasted, except for Annabelle Wallis, whose character is such a waste of space that if she were removed, it would make no difference to the story. They are expected to saunter into the background and let the boys play. Granted, the true story that it’s based on happened the same way, but with talents such as Isla Fisher and Rashida Jones, a different approach on film would have been nice.
Worst of all, the film takes a sharp turn towards sentimentality. It’s unbelievable how it becomes vomit-inducing and mawkish in following that route. Jake Johnson’s character Chilli keeps asking everyone whether it was faked, and the audience will no doubt ask the same question.
This ends the game review of Tag, which is a slipshod comedy that could’ve been an entertainingly loony farce (and it sometimes is). However, the unlikable characters, unfunny script and the sharp turn towards forced sentimentality will make you want to tag out of the film.
TWO CGI ARMS OUT OF FIVE.
Summary: The unlikable characters, unfunny script and the sharp turn towards forced sentimentality will make you want to tag out of the film.