EXPECTATIONS: A film that takes its cartoonish premise to hopefully hilarious heights.
REVIEW: Here’s a comedy premise for you. A bunch of childhood friends play the classic game of tag. Okay, simple enough so far. But the game of tag has gone on through every month of May for 30 years. Yep, you’ve read that right. 30 years.
And it’s based on a true story where that basically happened, but it was 23 years. Truth is stranger than fiction but you can imagine many film producers would flock to make this story into a movie and after 5 years since the article was published, we now have the simply-titled Tag, directed by first-timer Jeff Tomsic and starring an ensemble cast of comedic players. Will the film bring the goofy premise on-screen with hilarious results?
The story goes with 5 childhood friends who have been playing the same game of Tag on every month of May for 30 years. All grown up now, we see Hoagie (Ed Helms), Bob (Jon Hamm), Chili (Jake Johnson) and Kevin (Hannibal Buress) reuniting to go after Jerry (Jeremy Renner), the lone wolf of the group that has never been tagged.
News has it that Jerry is about to get married to Susan (Leslie Bibb) and his wedding is his last hurrah of tag before he retires from the game. With the help of Anna (Isla Fisher), Hoagie’s wife and Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis), a journalist who wants to document this game, the race is on.
The premise for Tag itself is utterly ridiculous, so it’s quite obvious that the filmmakers are not aiming for any semblance of realism. And during the many moments of the game, the film earns its laughs due to their sheer audacity. Many tropes of the action genre get lampooned to hilariously cartoony effect.
One particular example is when Jerry uses his observational skills to attack or evade the others and it is shown in slow-motion, and it lampoons the action scenes in films like the Sherlock Holmes entries and Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer. Another example is when Jerry improvises weapons out of household items like a purse or a walker that is very reminiscent of the fight choreography of Jackie Chan. It helps that Jeremy Renner is a good sport and executes all the action scenes convincingly and gets in on the comedy quite well.
And the funniest of all is when Jerry lures the group into a trap in the forest and it makes fun of horror/thriller cliches like setting booby traps or psychological warfare. It’s pure lunacy but it serves the premise well and the physical comedy is a lot of fun to watch. Predator, The Evil Dead, The Blair Witch Project, First Blood, the references are all there. There are even moments where the characters disguise themselves as someone else, even an old lady, and it reaches a funny Looney Tunes vibe that one wishes it kept up throughout.
Less so however is the verbal comedy. The cast do what they can with their roles and the script, but when you break it down (and there really isn’t much breaking down), the characters are just not worth caring about. They’re completely selfish, unhinged, chauvinistic people that you would never want any association with them. Which is why the jokes that involve laughing at them are funny, and yet most of the jokes that want us to laugh with them fail.
The script co-written by Rob McKittrick (who wrote the Waiting… [sic] films) is littered with jokes about fellatio, drug use, masturbation (an actual threat involves exactly that) and profane language can be executed with flair and sometimes, there are some laughs to be had, particularly from Hannibal Buress, whose oddly inflected line deliveries make rote material work well. But when the film goes on to make jokes about miscarriages and then repeats that joke ad nauseum, it becomes quite repulsive.
And once again, the talents of the actresses are all wasted (except for Annabelle Wallis, who’s character is such a waste of space that if she were removed, it would make no difference to the story), where they saunter into the background and let the boys play. Granted, the true story that it’s based on happened the same way, but seeing it on film done differently would’ve been nice, especially when you have the talents like Isla Fisher and Rashida Jones.
And worse of all, the film takes a sharp turn towards sentimentality that it becomes vomit-inducingly mawkish that you almost can’t believe that the film went toward that route. Jake Johnson’s character Chilli keeps asking everyone whether it was faked and the audience will no doubt ask the same question.
And that ends the
game review of Tag, a slipshod comedy that could’ve been an entertainingly lunatic farce (and it sometimes is) but the unlikable characters, the unfunny script and the sharp turn into forced sentimentality will make you to tag out of the film.
All scenes involving the titular game are fun
Cast do what they can with the problematic script
Verbal comedy is subpar
Female roles are wasted
Mawkish turn in third act
This review can be also seen at IMPULSE GAMER. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.
Cast: Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis, Rashida Jones, Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb, Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner
Director: Jeff Tomsic
Screenwriters: Rob McKittrick, Mark Steilen