WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2018)
Director: Jeff Tomsic
Starring: Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner
I had many lunchtimes at school playing tag, or simply ‘it’ as it was called over here, and it was one of those games that became synonymous with childhood and playtime. I’m an adult now, so naturally, I haven’t played the game in years. Maybe I’m doing life wrong as Tag is based on the story of five lifelong friends who, every May, spend the month travelling cross country in a wild game of tag. Why? Because…why not, it would seem.
The story of Hoagie Malloy (here played by Helms), the untagged in thirty years Jerry Pierce (Renner), Bob Callahan (Hamm), Randy Cilliano (Johnson) and Kevin Sable (Buress) was so peculiar that the Wall Street Journal picked it up and ran with it – bringing nationwide fame to five normal guys and the promise of dollars to Warner Bros. The events of Tag must have been dramatized for the screen as surely no-one, no tag team, could go to these lengths? Crashing funerals, births, workplaces etc. would probably create some issues and the idea of crashing a funeral isn’t cool, let’s be honest. The characters portrayed here drift between likable and unlikable as the movie moves on and the game becomes more contrived and edgy – though Jon Hamm and Hannibal Buress are fun to watch, with Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye training paying off nicely as well.
The gags come thick and fast but don’t always land, and we all know comedies live and die by the level of intended laughs they provide. There’s a moment when Jon Hamm decides to catch up with his ex (played by Rashida Jones) and his timing as he seizes the moment is hilarious, then the movie descends into miscarriage jokes and it all becomes very unfunny. An attempt at layering on the emotion towards the end feels unearned and doesn’t work as well as Tomsic would have anticipated – the third act of the movie as a whole lets the movie down with off-kilter humour, unemotional weight and, frankly, it becomes a drag which is a shame as the previous acts were pretty good overall.
The music works, though. Throw in a Meat Puppets cover, the Crash Test Dummies 90s hit Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, Danzig, The Pixies and a load more and you certainly have a good soundtrack to tap along to – stick around for a superb cast medley of the aforementioned Crash Test Dummies tune.
Taking a story that held messages of friendship, brotherhood and, importantly, fun, Tag seemed set up to be one of the comedies of 2018 - and you can bet it was a hell of a lot of fun to make. To be fair, in a year of poor comedies, Tag will surely be up there by the end of the year, but probably more by luck rather than anything else. Some great gags are quickly thrown out for rudimentary humour and a letdown of a finale which prevents Tag from really riding high.
June 26th 2018