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Tag Movie Review

Tag (2018) movie poster Tag

Theatrical Release: June 15, 2018 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Jeff Tomsic / Writers: Mark Steilen (screen story & screenplay), Rob McKittrick (screenplay), Russell Adams (Wall Street Journal article "It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being It")

Cast: Ed Helms (Hogan "Hoagie" Malloy), Jake Johnson (Randy "Chilli" Cilliano), Annabelle Wallis (Rebecca Crosby), Hanniball Buress (Kevin Sable), Isla Fisher (Anna Malloy), Rashida Jones (Cheryl Deakins), Leslie Bibb (Susan Rollins), Jon Hamm (Bob Callahan), Jeremy Renner (Jerry Pierce), Lil Rel Howery (Reggie), Steve Berg (Lou Seibert), Thomas Middleditch (Dave), Nora Dunn (Linda Malloy), Brian Dennehy (Mr. Cilliano - uncredited)


The jokes write themselves. Tag is a movie about adults playing the game of the same name. Has Hollywood run out of original ideas, will ask the least creative of late night talk show hosts. Maybe it's more surprising that it took six summers after a Battleship movie to finally get one about tag,
a schoolyard game that dates back at least to the mid-19th century. But what at first glance looked like an April Fool's Day joke trailer by Funny or Die ends up being very much a 2018 major studio comedy and unfortunately a middling one at that.

Based on a true story first reported on by the Wall Street Journal, Tag tells the story of five friends who have been playing the same game of tag since they were children. We get a brief glimpse of the five in the early 1980s. They pick up where they left off every year in the month of May. One of the five -- the stealthy rogue Jerry (Jeremy Renner) -- has somehow avoided being tagged even once in the thirty years. The other four -- Fortune 800 CEO Bob (Jon Hamm), straight-laced doctor Hoagie (Ed Helms), sad sack stoner Chilli (Jake Johnson), and free-thinking Sable (Hannibal Buress) -- decide this is the year they'll get Jerry because he supposedly wants to retire and also he's about to get married at a ceremony none of the others were invited to.

Every may, Hoagey (Ed Helms), Kevin (Hannibal Buress), and Bob (Jon Hamm) resume the game of tag they've been playing since childhood, a story that fascinates Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca Crosby (Annabelle Wallis).

So the boys head to the state of Washington along with Hogan's competitive wife Anna (Isla Fisher) and Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca Crosby (a curiously highly billed Annabelle Wallis) whose profile of Bob's company has turned into an article on the friends' unbelievable game. Their plan is to finally tag Jerry, although his fiancιe Susan (Leslie Bibb) has obvious concerns about their ceremony being disrupted.

Adapted from the real WSJ article by Rob McKittrick (Waiting...) and TV-seasoned Mark Steilen ("Shameless"), Tag is a R-rated bro comedy in the vein of The Hangover trilogy. It lacks, however, the sharp narrative, rich characterization, directorial flair, and generally on-target humor of those films. Jeff Tomsic, making his feature film directing debut after a decade of shorts and under-the-radar television, aims for a similar dynamic as Todd Phillips' unexpectedly blockbuster hijinks. But the antics here are rarely outrageous and lend more to sporadic chuckles than steady laughter.

Chilli (Jake Johnson) tries to become the first guy to ever tag the elusive Jerry (Jeremy Renner) in a play that backfires when he gets hit with hot coffee.

It's tough to pinpoint why Tag never really soars the way it wants to. It's true the concept isn't particularly relatable or accessible. But the cast is talented, with Johnson and Buress leading the group in laughs.
There's some off-color humor including an iffy big gag that had someone in my audience vocally disapproving of as he left the theater. But neither the plot nor the group's chemistry ever win us over the way they should. Subplots, most significant among them a love triangle between Chilli, Bob, and their mutual childhood crush Cheryl (Rashida Jones), underwhelm while being under-developed.

In my estimation, the most significant achievement of the film is the prominent showcase it gives to The Pharcyde's "Runnin'", a not terribly well-known 1995 song that has aged remarkably well and stands out among a soundtrack full of nostaglic '80s and '90s hip hop and alternative. Second may be that with a single scene of him playing Chilli's dad, it gives Brian Dennehy his biggest theatrical film credit in probably a decade.

Tag will probably struggle to find an audience and be forgotten quickly even by summer movie standards. It opens as adult counterprogramming to Pixar's inevitably behemothic Incredibles 2 and next week faces the Jurassic World sequel that Johnson sadly isn't back for.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Ocean's Eight • Life of the Party • Incredibles 2 • Uncle Drew • Hereditary • The First Purge • Ant-Man and the Wasp
Game Night • Horrible Bosses • Hot Tub Time Machine
Ed Helms: The Hangover • Vacation • Cedar Rapids • Jeff, Who Lives at Home | Jon Hamm: Baby Driver • Friends with Kids • Keeping Up with the Joneses
Rashida Jones: I Love You, Man • Celeste & Jesse Forever • Our Idiot Brother | Jake Johnson: Safety Not Guaranteed • Jurassic World
Hannibal Buress: Daddy's Home | Isla Fisher: Wedding Daze • Now You See Me • Confessions of a Shopaholic

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Reviewed July 5, 2018.

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