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Movie Review: "Tag" Is Silly, Stupid and Very Fun

Starring Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis, Hannibal Burress, 
Isla Fisher,  Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner
Based on the article "It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being It" by Russell Adams
Screenplay by Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen
Directed by Jeff Tomsic

Reviewed by Patrick Gibbs

 Out of Four

Chances are that you've seen the trailers for Tag, and it requires little setup. But for those who haven't, the premise is this: at the age of nine, a group of tight-knit friends--Hoagie (Ed Helms), Jerry (Jeremy Renner), Bob (Jon Hamm), Chili (Jake Johnson) and Sable (Hannibal Burress)--created a game of tag that they played through the month of May. They have kept this game going into adulthood, and after thirty years, it was the thing that brought them together, even when their lives took them in different directions.

But this year, the stakes are a higher: Jerry--who's never been tagged-- is retiring from the game as  his May wedding approaches and he settles down. Hoagie starts off the game by sneaking into Bob's workplace dressed as a janitor and tagging him while Bob is being interviewed by Rebecca Crosby (Anabelle Wallis) a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. When Hoagie breaks the news of Jerry's retirement, he convinces Bob that the rest of the group must working together to make sure Jerry gets tagged, and Crosby insists on tagging along (no pun intended), convinced that the game is a more interesting story than a boring profile on Bob's business accomplishments.

They are soon off to the airport, along with Hoagie's wife Anna (Isla Fisher), and they go back home to get Chilli and Sable.

Jerry is one step ahead of Bob.
(Images Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

From there, it's all about bringing down Jerry, who is is always one step ahead and will do anything to avoid being tagged, and has Jason Bourne-like reflexes (yes, I'm going with Jason Bourne, not Aaron Cross.). The only stipulation is that Jerry's fiancee, Susan (Leslie Bibb) insists that the wedding, and any events connected with it (rehearsals, etc) are off limits, and the group sign an accord to this effect.  This leaves the group to try to find a window in which to tag Jerry.

(Images Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

The words "based on a true story" are used about as loosely here as they ever have been, which should be pretty obviously from the trailers. The premise has been used to create an outrageous screwball comedy that's somewhere between The Hangover and a Roadrunner cartoon. That's not to say it doesn't work - more often than not, it plays - but the obligatory footage of the people who inspired it at the end should illustrate both how committed to the game these guys have been and how much of a Hollywoodized version we've just watched (for one thing, all thoughts that Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms and Rashida Jones are starting to show a little of their age go out the window when you see these non made up people without personal fitness trainers.).

The main reason this works as well as it does is the cast, particularly Helms, Hamm, Johnson and Fisher (who steals the movie a bit as the wife who is technically not allowed to play but is as overly obsessed as anyone else, if not more so.). Hannibal Burress' unique delivery works better in some scenes than others, but when it does it really does, and he provided the most prolonged, wheezy belly laugh I got from the film. The delightful Rashida Jones is hardly used up to her potential, and Renner, while very effective in the action scenes, actually isn't nearly as funny here as he was in Mission" Impossible - Ghost Protocol or Avengers: Age of Ultron, primarily because he is given the least likable character. The ever annoying Thomas Middleditch (the Verizon guy) features prominently in the weakest section of the film, playing an employee of Jerry's gym who spouts graphic and slightly homophobic comments mixed with calling everyone else a homophobe in a bit that just doesn't work in an already problematic sequence.

The script is hit and miss, with an over reliance F-bombs (admittedly, sometimes it is funny, but sometimes it's just not) and sexual references that mostly feel pretty laboured. But there is also some dialogue that is pretty clever, and delivered with expert timing. First time director Jeff Tomsic does a great job with the pacing and for the most part the action (including an amusing riff on Robert Downey, Jr's Sherlock Holmes) is well staged, though I could have done with out the GoPro running shots (whatever this technique is supposed to accomplish, I've never seen it succeed.).  A big question on whether this works for you is how far you are willing to suspend disbelief on the violence/danger factor, as these guys are falling from great heights, throwing fire extinguishers at each other and all sorts of stuff that is beyond ridiculous and makes you actually glad that the movie is already not appropriate for children who might imitate some of this insanity. There is also a sense of heart, and while that sentimental element is feeling trite and cheesy to some, it worked for me.

On the whole, Tag is what it is, and I had a good time with it, and if you can handle the raunchy content and turn off your brain, you likely will, too.

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