Director: Jeff Tomsic
Cast: Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis, Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Hannibal Buress, Jeremy Renner
RunTime: 1 hr 40 mins
Rating: M18 (Some Nudity and Coarse Language)
Released By: Warner Bros
Official Website: http://www.tagthemovie.com/
Opening Day: 21 June 2018
Synopsis: For one month every year, five highly competitive friends hit the ground running in a no-holds-barred game of tag they’ve been playing since the first grade—risking their necks, their jobs and their relationships to take each other down with the battle cry: “You’re It!” This year, the game coincides with the wedding of their only undefeated player, which should finally make him an easy target. But he knows they’re coming…and he’s ready. Based on a true story, the New Line Cinema comedy “Tag” shows how far some guys will go to be the last man standing.
Tag, you’re it. You know that childhood game where two or more players chase each other in an attempt to tag someone or avoid being tagged? Well, according to a Wall Street Journal article in 2013, it turns out that a group of ten friends have been playing the game once every month for the last 30 years of their lives. It’s not difficult to see why Hollywood has sparked to turning their life story into a bromantic comedy full of high jinks, disguises and carefully choreographed pranks, and thanks to the solid chemistry of an excellent ensemble cast, ‘Tag’ is a light, frothy summer comedy that’s packed with silly fun and an unexpected dose of sweet sentiment.
As conceived by Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen, this adaptation focuses on the days leading up to the impending nuptials of Jerry (Jeremy Renner), the only member among a group of five childhood friends who has never ever been tagged. Coincidentally, these days fall within the month of May, the month where these lifelong buddies take up the same epic game that they have been perpetuating since they were nine-year-olds. The opening scene shows just how epic their game has evolved to, with the qualified veterinarian Hoagie (Ed Helms) sitting across a sceptical Lil Rel Howery interviewing for a job as a janitor at the swanky New York insurance firm where his buddy Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm) is CEO.
Hoagie so happens to intrude upon Bob giving an interview to Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis), who decides the tag story is more interesting than Callahan himself and signs herself up to join the duo for a cross-country ride to round up the rest of the team. In Denver, Bob tags their stoner pal Chilli (Jake Johnson) after a intense foot-race through apartments and fire escapes; while in Portland, Sable (Hannibal Buress) is in the middle of a therapy session when the trio emerges from out of the room’s closet to grab him. And with Hoagie’s aggressive and hyper-competitive wife Anna (Isla Fisher) in tow, the gang head back to their hometown of Spokane to pin Jerry down.
Making his feature film debut, veteran TV director Jeff Tomsic approaches the film as a series of elaborate high-energy set-pieces that wouldn’t feel out of place in a conventional Hollywood actioner. Among the highlights are a night-time ambush at the country club where Jerry is due to hold his wedding; a mano-a-mano between Hoagie and Jerry at a mall where the former disguises himself as an old lady with a walker; a cat-and-mouse in the middle of the forest complete with booby traps and body doubles; and last but not least, a fake-out at Jerry’s Alcoholics Anonymous session that also reveals his fiancée Susan (Leslie Bibb) to be the agent of a singularly bizarre gag. It’s no-holds-barred all right, but even so, the shenanigans are always in good fun and never performed with anything so much as ill intent.
That’s the same spirit in which the other raunchy gags are devised, which includes Nora Dunn as Hoagie’s flirtatious mum with an awkward crush on Chilli, Rashida Jones as a honeypot trap for both Chilli and Bob, and Thomas Middleditch as a homophobic gym receptionist whom the guys threaten to ‘waterboard’ for information on Jerry’s whereabouts. The supporting cast is sheer comedy gold, as is the lead quintet of Helms, Hamm, Johnson, Buress and Renner. It is clear just how much fun these actors had making the movie, and their energy, enthusiasm and cheer is simply infectious. In particular, their interior deadpan monologues that precede a number of their attempted tags are utterly hilarious, and especially in Hamm’s case, demonstrates the actors’ impressive comic chops.
But amidst the infantile pratfalls is a poignant subtext about friendships, and perhaps more accurately, the seemingly unbreakable childhood ones that somehow get swept away in the day-to-day grind of adult life. Indeed, more so than claiming the bragging rights of breaking Jerry’s record, the whole point of their game is so that they can keep up with each other – or in literal terms, stay in touch with one another, which is often a lot more than we can say for the friends we grew up with. There is also a more sobering reason behind Hoagie’s desperation to tag Jerry, and Helms nails the moment with surprising pathos. It’s a finish that will bring tears to your eyes all right, which you’d probably didn’t expect watching Chilli plunge down a fire escape or Jerry throwing a thermos of hot coffee in Chilli’s face.
As Hollywood usually does, ‘Tag’ isn’t a faithful retelling of the real-life story it was inspired by, but we have to say that we didn’t quite mind the creative liberties that Tomsic and his two screenwriters have taken here. At its heart, their movie still succeeds in capturing the verve, playfulness and enduring companionship that characterises their annual game. To be frank, we expected this to be some man-child comedy about arrested adolescence, but we came out very much – and pleasantly, we may add – surprised by just how much we enjoyed spending 100 minutes with an undemanding bunch of friends we’d love to be part of. So like Anna or Rebecca or Susan in the movie, we were more than happy to hear the words ‘Tag! You’re it!’.
(A rambunctious celebration of friendship, this wacky, raunchy and surprisingly poignant action-comedy will have you gladly wishing that 'you're it!')
Review by Gabriel Chong