Most of us played Tag when we were kids. I know I definitely did. Whether it was during recess in the backyard or even in the house, it was fun and easy to play. We just needed a few people and some space. Then, I did not play it for many, many years, until my brother’s kids got a little older. Now one of my nephews wants to play it all the time. Generally speaking, Tag is meant to be for kids; it is not something adults do on their own. That is certainly not the case for the main characters in the vulgar comedy Tag, which is definitely not for kids. It is very loosely based on the true story of a group of men who have been playing the same game of Tag every May for thirty years. However, this film has no intention of figuring out why they continue to play while other adults have long since stopped. I do not know the reason the real people still do it, but the characters in this movie use it as an excuse to act like irresponsible idiots for 31 days.
Though one of the characters is always saying how great the game is for keeping them connected, they do not seem to know each other very well. The makers of Tag were so concerned with the game that they forgot to develop any relationships between the friends. Or, for that matter, the characters themselves. It is fascinating how much information is given in quick, easily forgettable, throwaway lines that are never followed up on. I suppose that makes sense since these friends never really seem to care about what is going on in each other’s lives.
The cast is excellent, but their roles are all so flat that the most they can do is deliver a good line every now and then. The players are Hoagie (Ed Helms), who is passionate about keeping the game going, arrogant Bob (Jon Hamm), stoner Chilli (Jake Johnson), ultra-competitive Jerry (Jeremy Renner), who has never been tagged, and Sable, who we learn nothing about except that he is played by Hannibal Buress and has the best lines. They are joined by a few women (Isla Fisher as Hoagie’s intense wife, Leslie Bibb as Jerry’s soon-to-be-wife, Rashida Jones as a former flame of both Bob and Chilli and Annabelle Wallis as a reporter who inexplicably decides to follow the guys for a story in a plot thread that never leads anywhere), but they mainly stay off to the side. The game is for boys only.
It is likely none of this would have bothered me if I was laughing more, so I guess my biggest problem with the movie is it is just not very funny. It is way too scattered and unfocused to work as a comedy. Also, the concept, which is used for a lot of the humor, is only funny if you do something with it. Tag (95 minutes, without the end credits) thinks it’s hilarious to see grown men go to ridiculous lengths to tag or avoid being tagged. That said, it still flirts with okay-ness thanks to the skills of its cast who are amusing despite the laziness of the story they are in. Buress gets the most laughs, but pretty much everyone, down to some of the cameos, have their moments. It makes me wish they were all given actual characters to play in an actual story.
2 out of 5
Ed Helms as Hogan “Hoagie” Malloy
Jon Hamm as Bob Callahan
Jake Johnson as Randy “Chilli” Cilliano
Hannibal Buress as Kevin Sable
Jeremy Renner as Jerry Pierce
Isla Fisher as Anna Malloy
Leslie Bibb as Susan Rollins
Annabelle Wallis as Rebecca Crosby
Rashida Jones as Cheryl Deakins
Directed by Jeff Tomsic
Screenplay by Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen