Director: Jeff Tomsic
Screenplay: Rob McKittrick, Mark Steilen
Starring: Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner
Runtime: 100 Minutes
Tag has a fairly different starting premise for a comedy movie. Based on a true story that was published in The Wall Street Journal, it follows a group of grown men, played by Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm, and Jeremy Renner, who spend one month a year playing the game of tag as a means of remaining in contact with each other from a young age.
It’s a bizarre and quirky little story that kind of seems hard to believe, but the story itself as covered by Russell Adams is a charming little read. How it ends up translating to screen is a real groaner, especially when taken into account how good some of this year's mainstream comedies have been.
Not content with delivering on a fresh enough premise through which to present an otherwise traditional bromance comedy, it’s decisions to up the ante into a ridiculous face could have worked since most films that carry the moniker of being “based on a true story” are often bloated up or subject to heavy creative licence for genre films. If only the film – and the marketing campaign – wasn’t so fucking thrilled with itself by presenting as the more extreme version that it has become.
This isn’t to bemoan the difference between what a film could be as opposed to the product that it is, but Tag ends up feeling so mean-spirited and sickeningly deluded by the audacity of its own being by the end that it overwhelms what could have been a fairly earnest story about friendship.
What the whole plot ends up coming down to is an elaborate plan by the guys to tag Jeremy Renner’s Jerry Pierce, the only one of the friends who has never been tagged in their near three decades of playing, around the date of his wedding to which they have all been invited. The elaborate stages to which they end up going to escalating from disguises to break-ins and inevitably to really dark and sick minded extremes of deception that the film seems to think is okay or even hilarious at the expense of the audience’s sanity.
It’s a shame because it all starts well enough with a credible chemistry between the cast, but quickly wears out its welcome as their personality traits eventually show themselves as the primary focus over actual character. Relationships and convincing conflicts arrive and then wave as they pass by, and they end up being reduced to the roles of the pot-smoker, the weird one, the handsome professional and so on.
Even when a conversation is actually brought up concerning how oddly unlikable and detached from the rest of the group Renner’s character is, it doesn’t really feel addressed and ends on a saccharine and woefully misjudged final stretch that just repeats and subverts gags seen earlier. Isla Fisher gets little to do but scream and take the game too seriously, while poor Annabelle Wallis feels even more perfunctory to the plot than she did in The Mummy.
Tag is an empty waste of talent. The premise is there for someone to work with, but debut director Jeff Tomsic doesn’t really know what to do with the visuals most of the time and retreats to safety. The cast is okay but feel like they should be in far better work – with the exception of Ed Helms – and it just feels lifeless, baggy and more than a little nasty at times.