Release Date: June 15, 2018
Studio: Broken Road Productions
Director: Jeff Tomsic
Release Format: Theatrical
Running Time: 100 minutes
As a diehard fan of New Girl, I will watch pretty much anything Jake Johnson is in. So right off the bat, this movie didn’t have to do much to get me into the seat- but to keep me there, that’s a different story. Tag is a flawed, yet entertaining comedy, that has great strengths that end up becoming some of its main weaknesses.
Right off the bat it’s important to note that, believe it or not, Tag is based on a true story. Just like in the movie, there is a group of friends that played the same game of tag for a little over two decades. The real life story involves about ten men, this interpretation narrows the story down to just five.
The movie starts right off the bat with some shenanigans courtesy of Ed Helms as Hogan Malloy. The movie is set up pretty strongly with Hogan ambushing Bob Callahan(Jon Hamm) and laying the basis for the movie: One of the group of friends has never been tagged(Jeremy Renner as Jerry Peirce) and plans on retiring from the game in a few days, they have to get the band back together to fly out to Jerry’s wedding and finally tag him. They quickly pick up Chili(Jake Johnson) and Sable(Hannibal Burress), as well as Hogans wife Anna(Isla Fisher), and they are set to face off against Jerry without missing a beat.
Tag blazes a path through the set up and straight to the action, a little TOO quickly. The movie slows down considerably once they actually find Jerry, and really just becomes a series of slow, albeit sometimes funny, scenes till their next run-in with Jerry. There are artificial lengtheners to the plot that really serve no purpose, like Chili and Bob’s obsession with Cheryl Deakins(Rashida Jones). Tag wastes a lot of screen time setting the scene for these two to compete over their high school crush, but it just kind of meanders around and fizzles out without any real resolution. The entire subplot could easily be cut altogether as it virtually has no effect on the main plot whatsoever. There is another supporting character, Rebecca Crosby(Annabelle Wallis) that soaks up time here and there as nothing more than a device to let the characters explain things. Rebecca is a journalist from The Wall Street Journal who is doing a story on the game, which is how the real life story came to light, but she really has no purpose and just serves to slow the story down at the sake of buffing the “inspired by a true story” tagline.
The slowdowns would make this film suffer a lot more if it wasn’t for the amazing cast. Isla Fisher steals the show in many scenes as the hyper competitive wife that isn’t allowed to play, but still finds ways to help her husband. I have trouble seeing Ed Helms as anyone other than Andy Bernard, as he seems to play that character in a lot of his films. Tag has him finally shed that type casting somewhat, and he is genuinely entertaining- with great timing and he doesn’t let himself be overshadowed by anyone else. I’ve recently come to see the great actor that Jon Hamm is, but this is the first time I have seen him in a comedic role, and he takes to it very easily and smoothly.
The cast isn’t all great, and it’s not really their fault. Hannibal Burress gets to have some very funny one liners, but overall he doesn’t get much to do and is forced to just kind of stand in the background and listen to the others have conversations with each other. Jeremy Renner has some great scenes, but overall he comes off as something of an asshole and it makes you question why the group even wants him to be a part of it; the story resolves that fact, but by the time you get there it’s a little too late. The script has him acting like Hawkeye more than Jerry, and although there is some humor to be had there, it seemed out of place.
There are still plenty of laughs to be had throughout the film, but it all leads to a surprisingly heartfelt conclusion. The moral of the story is hinted at a few times during the movie, but I did not expect it to change the tone as much as it did. I won’t say it’s a negative, but it definitely seemed to come out of nowhere.
Jeff Tomsic has directed a lot of comedy specials, in which the focus is on the jokes. That’s a problem and a blessing for Tag in that the funny parts are well done, but getting to the next joke isn’t nearly as smooth as it should be. Neither writer has many feature films under their belt, and I think those two factors come together to create Tag; a movie with a solid premise and solid actors, just not played the right way.
Verdict: Tag has plenty to keep you entertained, but pacing and story issues keep it from being as good as it should have been.
- Strong acting from most of the cast
- Lots of funny quotables
- Surprisingly Heartfelt ending
- Bad pacing
- Heavy focus on a pointless subplot
- Some main characters have little to do
Decades of video games and comic books have molded me into the nerd with a heart of gold that I am today. I can go full fanboy one second, and then gleefully play devil’s advocate the next- life is just more fun that way.