One of the most memorable closing lines of any film is from Stand By Me, based on the short story “The Body” by Stephen King. Richard Dreyfuss as Gordie Lachance asks, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?” Tag answers that question in the affirmative, introducing a group of men who for one month each year reconnect to continue a game of tag they started as kids.
Based on a true story, Tag follows five grown men who’ve been playing the same game of tag for 30 years. Every year in May these adults turn into overgrown boys who stalk each other to pass on the tag. There are very few rules to the game (one that’s pointed out in-depth involves no punching of buttholes), although they do make occasional amendments to the rules based on real-life circumstances. Little is off-limits, and tagging during funerals, births, at workplaces, and even during therapy sessions is allowed.
Wives and girlfriends get into the act but aren’t officially members of the group. However, the one member of the group who’s never been tagged – Jerry (Jeremy Renner) – is about to get married and his bride-to-be (Leslie Bibb) convinces the men to agree to halting the game during her rehearsal dinner and during the actual wedding ceremony. That agreement doesn’t stop the determined taggers from plotting to attack in the hours leading up to Jerry’s wedding.
Donuts, tablecloths, and dozens of other assorted items are used as weapons to fight off potential tags. And, given that the film’s lead characters are mostly male, there are lots of hits to the groin area accompanied by penis jokes as the guys attempt to end the month without being “it.” There are also some pretty incredible stunt sequences, including a wild golf cart race that ends with three members of the gang temporarily taken out in spectacular fashion.
The R-rated comedy features a talented ensemble who truly sell the idea they’re life-long friends. The actors have solid chemistry and play well off each other, with each getting in a few good zingers while taking what look to be pretty wicked body blows.
Ed Helms plays Hoagie, the most committed member of the group and the instigator when it comes to launching the coordinated attack on Jerry. Jon Hamm plays Bob Callahan, a corporate bigwig whose interview with a Wall Street Journal reporter (played by Annabelle Wallis) is interrupted by Hoagie disguised as a janitor. Fascinated by this bizarre childhood game taken to extreme levels, she tags along to witness the game in all its glory.
Jake Johnson stars as Chilli, a perpetually high dude with no filter and a fairly reliable bullsh*t meter. Hannibal Buress is Kevin, a guy who’s able to remain surprisingly mellow despite all the craziness surrounding him. And then there’s Jeremy Renner as Jerry, the only player among the group who has escaped from three decades of the game without ever once being tagged. Jerry’s a chess master while his fellow tag players are still trying to figure out how to get kinged in checkers. He’s always five steps ahead of the gang, meticulously plotting out his escape routes and seemingly possessing a sixth sense when it comes to the whereabouts of his old friends.
The actors are all terrific, but it’s Isla Fisher who pretty much steals this male-dominated comedy. As Ed Helms’ character’s wife, Anna, Fisher is the most competitive member of the circle of friends. Anna’s technically not allowed to tag or be tagged (there’s a “no girls” rule), but that doesn’t keep her from participating in the planning of surprise attacks. Hoagie’s obsession for the game is equaled by Anna’s passion for competition, and Ed Helms and Isla Fisher comedy styles fit hand in glove.
The film takes what seems like a very unnecessarily dark turn during the third act, yet it manages to end on a hopeful note. Tag’s got a surprising amount of heart, along with saucy humor and intense action scenes. It reminds me of The Hangover in many ways…buddies hitting the road, the raunchy humor, and a standout performance by Ed Helms…and with the lack of decent comedies this year, Tag could be this year’s Hangover-style sleeper hit.
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, crude sexual content, drug use and brief nudity
Directed By: Jeff Tomsic
Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Release Date: June 15, 2018