tag movie cast with jon hamm and isla fisher

Tag Movie Review: A High-Stakes Kids’ Game

Tomatometer: 55% Audience Score: 57% IMDb: 6.7 

Plot

When a simple game of tag among friends is treated with high-octane action sequences, the result is a story that surpasses the source material in some ways. Based on a true tale of friendship, Tag looks at five friends who play a game of tag every year during May, because “we don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”

A tradition started when they were kids continues into adulthood and comes to a climactic high point when their friend, Jerry (Jeremy Renner), who has never been tagged in his life, is about to get married. Thinking the significant life moment will leave him vulnerable, the other four band together and travel cross country to tag the sole survivor for the first time ever.

Tag Trailer

Solid Premise

What draws your attention to start is that Tag is about an eclectic group of friends. Hoagie (Ed Helms) is a veterinarian with a serious competitive streak, matched and surpassed only by his wife Anna (Isla Fisher). Bob (Jon Hamm) is a successful businessman who grapples with a manageable dose of narcissism. Randy (Jake Johnson) is a broke and divorced stoner who doesn’t seem to have his bearings on life sorted out. And finally, we have Sable, played by Hannibal Buress, a character so closely linked to his actual persona that we might as well call him Hannibal, to begin with.

It’s a very “middle-of-the-road” group of people quite in contrast to Renner’s Jerry, a fitness instructor and authentic alpha male whose the complete opposite. Renner is the outlet to unlocking Tag’s elaborate and over-the-top action sequences, drawing on his previous acting bona fides to provide the film it’s ludicrously severe set pieces. He’s the thousand-dollar stripper giving VIP dances or the grand chandelier in the middle of the ballroom. He commands your attention.

By drawing on and mimicking fight choreography aesthetics from other less humorous film outings, like Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes, Tag injects a lethal dose of energy to its action, or tag scenes rather. In Sherlock, there are numerous scenes where the sleuth finds himself in combat, and Guy Ritchie’s direction slows down the camera, getting into the detective’s high-functioning analytical mind. He breaks down the physics of each punch and kick, strategizing his next move at a pace no living man can comprehend. Renner’s Jerry is the exact same, only cockier.

As he ducks and weaves to avoid any physical contact with his friends, lest he gets tagged, director Jeff Tomsic utilizes some genuinely bizarre activity to undercut the action with humor and comedy. One such exercise involves Jerry barraging Hoagie’s buttocks with an insane amount of punches while Hoagie’s face is a mixture of pain and ecstasy. Beyond the single actions, Tomsic and the writers place the various tagging scenarios in unlikely and some incongruous locations, a church and forest among them. While the ingenuity of each “tagging opportunity” wears off, the beginning of each of those opportunities does enough to keep us guessing and anticipating an even bigger set piece.

A Distraction and Two Attractions

As an accompanying side piece, we have Annabelle Wallis’s Rebecca join the activities as a Wall Street Journal reporter profiling Bob and his company for the newspaper. She merely serves the purpose of an observer and does nothing else, leaving most of the spotlight on the men and Isla Fisher. Fisher brings a rabid and feral enthusiasm to the proceedings, keen to see the love of her life finally tag Jerry. She tussles and cusses her way into our hearts, proving to be a welcome addition to the boys’ game of tag.

Another actor who deserves credit is Leslie Bibb’s Susan, Jerry’s soon-to-be wife. Initially coming off as a naive and kindhearted bride who just wants her wedding to go on without a hitch, she proves to be the perfect enabler for Jerry’s competitive attitude, fawning over him like a sociopathic fangirl at a rock concert. 

Curiosity as Fuel

Tag attempts to get serious emotionally when it explores Jerry’s relationship with his four friends. While the four friends who’ve been tagged seem closer than ever, Jerry appears to be an outsider, propelled into a circle of his own by the game and his desire to never be tagged. He is running away all the time, after all. The issue is that the film mentions and touches on this topic, but only does so in passing.

But what does work is treating Jerry as an enigma, a rubric’s cube that needs solving. This is a man who’s never been tagged in over 30 years. He didn’t invite his friends to his wedding to make sure things stayed that way. What is he capable of doing to keep the streak alive? 

The answer is a lot of things. He treats the game as if it’s a never-ending battle. You could easily mistake Renner for thinking he’s in the Bourne movies. It’s this weighty treatment juxtaposed against a lighthearted kids game that generates the comedy and curiosity in the film.

How high can the stakes go for a game of tag?

Conclusion

Tag isn’t a comedy with a soft, emotional core at its center. There’s a ceiling to its adrenaline-inducing potential and a lower ceiling for its sentimentality.

It does just enough of both counts which makes it perfect for home viewing as it is available now. There’s also the odd chance that you’ll get caught up in your own introspection, wondering what you could have done growing up to keep some of your friendships alive if you already haven’t. What did you do against the obstacles of time and space?

Sankha started Not So Rotten because his friends didn’t like Mortdecai. He has yet to review the film for the website.

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