Review: Tag

Genre: Comedy.
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Annabelle Wallis, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Brian Dennehy, Lil Rey Howery.
Year Of Release: 2018
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Runtime: 100 Minutes
Director: Jeff Tomsic
Writer(s): Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen
Synopsis: “A small group of former classmates organize an elaborate, annual game of tag that requires some to travel all over the country.” IMDB

 

Tag, Jeff Tomsic’s directorial debut, has no right to work as well as it does. Based around a real-life group of friends who have been playing a game of tag for almost 30 years, the comedy tells a fun, fascinating if slight story and while it may seem like an odd playground for Hollywood to playing in, it helps to continue the year’s streak of impressive studio comedies following Game Night, Blockers and Love, Simon.

Hogan (Ed Helms), Bob (Jon Hamm), Randy (Jake Johnson), Kevin (Hannibal Buress) and Jerry (Jeremy Renner) have been playing a game of tag since 1983; despite the varying paths their lives have taken since, during the month of May, the game restarts with the men going to extreme lengths to avoid becoming ‘it’. Intent on finally catching Jerry before he ‘retires’ from the game, Hogan fires up the group for their most intense season to date. Rounding out the ensemble are Annabelle Wallis, Isla Fisher and Rashida Jones, each as the game, and committed to the silliness, as the next which is the main factor in Tag’s success.
Tag is the very definition of a fine, solid and serviceable comedy. There’s plenty of fun to be had, with a handful of laugh-out-loud moments peppered across the course of the film. With some creativity to the set pieces, amusingly exploring the characters’ internal monologues that help deliver some strong visual gags, first-time feature-length director  Tomsic does a fine job helming the project: it is sleek and sophisticated visually and buoyed by a real sense of energy, helping to divert your attention away from some of the narrative repetitiveness.

Based on Russell Adams‘ ‘It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being It‘, Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen’s screenplay may take plenty of dramatic liberties but it lays the foundations well enough for the committed cast to flex their comedic – and improvisation – muscles. After stumbling rather ungracefully out of the gate for the first act, it begins to recover as it finds its rhythm and energy, with a stronger sense of itself found as the thrill kicks in and the awkward, exposition-heavy set-up is complete.

Story-wise, it can be pretty flimsy, to begin with and, as mentioned, it becomes a touch repetitive at times, often lowering itself to close-to-the-knuckle, purposely shocking humour to enliven these routine moments — but it also manages to cultivate an emotional core that really took me by surprise int he final. Sure, it can become a little manipulative in its execution at times but the fundamental message is a powerful and touching one: we should all take a moment to relive our youth and reconnect with those friends who shaped your journey. They’re often the best friends you will ever have. It’s a nice flourish that the film could have neglected to develop and still delivered what it needed to – but its inclusion sure enhances the film emotionally and suggests a little more depth than many other studio films would explore.
It really is the talented cast that makes Tag such fun to play. Hannibal Buress and Jeremy Renner are the MVPs here but there’s no real weak link in the chain: it is very much an ensemble comedy and it works best when the group are sparring and gybing of their own accord. Our female characters are a touch on the underdeveloped side and I yearned for a stronger feminine presence at times but the three female performers are talented enough to make their limited screentime effective. Across the board, they all bounce off each other well with a fine team dynamic that ensures Tag remains rather robust and palpable for the whole 100-minute runtime (minus that awkward beginning, mind).

While Tag is far from a perfect studio comedy, there’s a great deal of fun to be had.  It’s light, it’s tight, it’s messy but it’s well-spirited, a frantically silly and raucous time at the movies that will fill a gap and prolong the streak of solid comedy programming. While it’s not quite as solid or consistent as either Game Night or Blockers on that front, who can deny the inventiveness of the set pieces and the joy of the chase – and that final montage is nothing short of delightful. Tag doesn’t always work but when it succeeds, it’s a real adrenaline rush, a fun, surprisingly potent and enjoyable popcorn flick.

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