Starring Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Leslie Bibb, Rashida Jones
2 STARS (out of 5)
Earlier this year, I reviewed a comedy movie that outstripped all of my expectations – Game Night – which offered genuine character development, unexpected twists, humour that didn’t slap you around the face with sledgehammer intensity and a plot that was engaging, goofy and fun. It set the tone. After the likes of last year’s CHiPS and Fist Fight (the latter of which remains one of my least favourite movies of all time), it was refreshing to get a mainstream US comedy hitting all the right notes, with a great cast and genuine pull. Tag could have followed this up, quite easily – but instead, it unfortunately falls into all of the pitfalls and issues I assumed – wrongly – that Game Night would come across.
Rather similar to Game Night in the sense that it focuses on a group of adults who still meet up occasionally having been friends for considerable years (there is actually more movies out there with this set-up than I’d normally have you believe) – Tag is reportedly based on a true story, and if the footage at the end of the film is to go by, that certainly is the case. Helms, Hamm, Renner, Johnson and Buress have been playing a game of ‘tag’ with each other each May for decades. The game knows no bounds – whether going overseas, interrupting the birth of a child, you name it – these guys are desperate to get rid of the hot potato that is being ‘it’. Essentially, it’s a playground game that’s evolved to the extent where old friends continue to habitually play it so that they can still connect with each other after several years. Renner is about to get married this latest May – and it just so happens that he’s never been caught in all the years they’ve been playing the game. Chaos and hilarity ensues.
Tag (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Let’s look at the positives. If you’re not at all offended by near-the-knuckle jokes, sight gags, gross-out moments and grown people acting like complete idiots, you’ll likely find Tag a fairly passable movie. It’s certainly well-paced, offering immeasurable chaos from scene to scene – and it’s helped along by a cast who generally knows what they’re doing. It’s perhaps not as jaw-droppingly mean-spirited as something as offensively dire as Fist Fight (I’m going to keep bringing that up, it’s cathartic to me), but there are plenty of moments which are clearly played for the sake of the characters coming across as childish, insensitive people – which I guess is rather the point. It’s a big game of tag, as the title suggests – so I’m assuming the decision to pump up these characters into overgrown children was a conscious creative decision. To some, this won’t be an issue – to others, it wears thin – and after a while, it’s to the movie’s detriment.
The movie does have plenty of funny moments though, unlike Game Night, it’s nowhere near as surprising, and is about 10% as endearing and engaging. The true story the movie is based on could have been followed a little more to the letter – the real guys who take part in this yearly game are not the cookie-cutter characters you see rampaging about on the big screen. Perhaps a different screenwriter and director combo could have given this one a little more heart, a little more for us to engage with – and then, it may not have come across so cloyingly juvenile. Once again, I do think this is part of a creative decision – it’s a juvenile movie, that’s the direction it’s going in – but at the same time, so much more could have, and should have, been done with the original premise. On those grounds, it’s hard not to be disappointed. Tag does try and eke some emotional moments in ways you’ll see coming a mile or ten away – but they do absolutely nothing to cover up what’s come before it.
Tag - Official Trailer (Warner Bros. Pictures)
I’m hardly slating Tag – it is well-made in more than a few ways – but it’s absolutely mind-numbing at its absolute worst. This is a movie which will appeal to a certain type of moviegoer and a certain brand of humour – which is all well and good – but anyone hoping for something a little more engaging than manchild antics and offensiveness for the sake of offensiveness will likely leave cinemas extremely disappointed. If you’re going to try this one at all, I would strongly recommend you wait for the Netflix release. Hollywood comedy is far from in the toilet – there’s hope in the form of Game Night and others – meaning that you really don’t have to settle for movies like Tag unless you’re absolutely strapped for choice. Not my cup of tea – take a look if you’re avoiding seeing anything challenging this week.