TAG

As a character from the best animated show of all time, BoJack Horseman, once said, “You paid $50,000 to a bunch of kindergartners for the movie rights to the name Tag!” If there’s one thing nobody in the world ever thought would get a movie “adaptation”, it’s of the game tag. The most surprising thing is, though, this is based off real people. I remember reading the initial Wall Street Journal article about the same group of friends playing the same game of tag a few years ago. I never once thought a film would be made out of it, but here we are. Some filmmakers thought the story was intriguing enough to make a movie about, but not all things are really ripe for adaptation. 

Hogan “Hoagie” Malloy (Ed Helms) and his friends have all been playing the same game of Tag for over 30 years. Every month of May, the group chases each other around in a desperate attempt to not be “it”. This may be the group’s last game, though, as Jerry Pierce (Jeremy Renner) is getting married and planning to retire. As Jerry has infamously never been tagged by his friends, Hogan gets everybody back together for one final round in order to make Jerry “it”. 

It’s not very often when you see a comedy film claim to be “Based on a true story,” and that’s mostly because a majority of comedies are a bit too ridiculous to be taken completely seriously. While I’m a fan of silly, absurdist comedy, it’s hard for me to be as invested in it when it’s not animated. When your story is animated, it’s a lot easier to accept logic and realism being thrown out the window. When you’re watching real people engage in cartoonish buffoonery and it’s supposed to be taking place in some semblance of the real world, it’s harder to find the material funny. Tag is full of over the top, slapstick comedy. When Jerry’s various friends try to tag him, he engages them in quite violent ways, ranging from throwing hot coffee in their face, to jumping out of a second story window. The filmmakers embrace the absurdity of their premise, offering many ridiculous ways in how the game of tag can be played. I appreciate that the filmmakers and cast went all out with the silliness, but sometimes it just goes too far and strains believability. Is there any fictional, let alone real, world where a character would be so nonchalant about being waterboarded?

The cast would be the saving grace here, but they’re not given very much to work with at all. Their characters have basic traits that make them stand out from each other, but nothing else beyond that. The biggest standouts are Jake Johnson and Hannibal Buress, who mostly succeed with their wonderful timing and delivery. Even Buress simply saying, “This is disturbing,” made me giggle. Other than that, Ed Helms plays the same milquetoast type character he’s known for, Jon Hamm is way too talented to be involved, I’ve never found Isla Fisher very funny, and Annabelle Wallis is without a doubt one of the most useless characters I’ve seen in a movie in some time. She deserves better. Jeremy Renner is pretty good, though, but is underused. Did you know he broke his arms during a stunt and had CGI arms for the rest of the movie? It’s noticeable in some scenes and not a huge issue, but I found his unusually stiff arms in some scenes quite amusing. Overall, these talented people just weren’t making me laugh a lot. 

Comedy might be the most difficult genre to tackle when it comes to handling tone. They’re meant to be funny, so your audience should be laughing throughout. These are still films, of course, which requires some amount of storytelling and characterization. Most comedies seem to have a hard time in balancing the laughs with the elements that make a movie a movie. Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg are two fantastic examples of filmmakers who pull that off well. Tag pretty much falls flat in the storytelling department as well. The story is supposed to be about friendship and how this one specific thing can form a bond that can last a lifetime, but that story never really comes across throughout. Most of the time, it’s just a bunch of guys running around and playing tag in the most ridiculous way you could imagine. I never got the sense that these people were lifelong friends. There are some subplots weaved throughout to develop their history, but they just do nothing but feel like they’re padding the runtime. When the film throws in the schmaltz at the end in an embarrassing attempt to have a “heart”, it comes off as incredibly unearned. Some of these tone changes are so drastic and sudden, I was sometimes baffled it was happening. 

While I respect that Tag embraced its wacky concept, it really came at the expense of a consistent tone and narrative, as well as a waste of a great cast. This is a prime example that just because something actually happened doesn’t mean it’ll make for an interesting or fun movie. When I initially read that news story, I thought, “Well, that’s neat,” and went on with my day. Perhaps with different filmmakers at the helm it could have been better, but overall, it’s just a neat story that should have been left at that because there’s really not that much more to it. 

4/10

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