Just the idea of a group of grown men playing the same game of tag for 30 years is enough to bring a smile to your face. The movie “Tag” is banking on more than just a smile, though, as this high-concept comedy has assembled a powerhouse cast to bring all this silliness to the big screen.
The result is a mixed bag, but there are just enough laughs from this likable cast to make this movie a worthwhile summer distraction.
Based on a true story (yes, there is an actual group of fortysomething men out there in the world trying to tag each other), “Tag” first introduces us to Hoagie (Ed Helms), the game’s most enthusiastic player, who gets a big boost of encouragement from his overly-supportive wife Anna (Isla Fisher).
Hoagie first assembles his buddies: corporate bigwig Callahan (Jon Hamm), pothead Chilli (Jake Johnson) and low-key Sable (Hannibal Buress).
Their mission is to tag Jerry (Jeremy Renner), their one friend who has never been tagged. Jerry goes to James Bond-level lengths of deception and hand-to-hand combat to avoid being tagged, but because he is about to be married, the rest of the gang knows exactly where he is going to be.
What follows is a series of ridiculous and, often hilarious, falls, smacks and crashes, as the boys return to their hometown and repeatedly try to tag Jerry.
There are some inspired moments here, like when Jerry breaks down an attack in slow-motion, complete with narration. And anytime you bring together a genuinely funny group of people and just have them hang out, laughs will happen by proxy.
Unfortunately, there is a lot here that just doesn’t work. The characters don’t get much in the way of a backstory, so everyone just plays to their archetypes, which makes the movie feel a little shallow. First-time director Jeff Tomsic shows off his inexperience by struggling with tone, as the movie revels in ridiculousness and then tries to land some genuine emotional punches leaving the audience unsure if they should be laughing at certain scenes or not.
The movie also struggles mightily with its female characters. Fisher does have some moments as Anna, but the movie goes and wastes the very talented Rashida Jones as the nexus of a long-simmering love triangle with Callahan and Chilli. And then there’s Annabelle Wallis, whose completely unnecessary character Rebecca is a Wall Street Journal reporter sent to interview Callahan about his business, but instead decides to drop everything and fly across the country to spend every waking minute with these goofballs because she thinks it will make a good story. I can’t even begin to describe how out of place she is in this movie.
At any rate, I am a sucker for good, old-fashioned slapstick with some funny banter on the side and “Tag” does deliver in that respect. In the end, the movie earns enough good will to eke it over the finish line and leave you with that same smile you walked in with. That counts as a win in my book; or at the very least, not a loss.
“Tag” is rated R for language throughout, crude sexual content, drug use and brief nudity.
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