REVIEW: Go ahead and skip this game of ‘Tag’

I was already skeptical walking in the screening room for “Tag.” Unfortunately, it turned out even worse than I anticipated.

The film follows a group of men who’ve not only been friends since childhood, but also reserve the month of May as a time to play the classic game of Tag with each other. The group includes Hogan (Ed Helms), Bob (Jon Hamm), Randy (Jake Johnson), Kevin (Hannibal Buress) and Jerry (Jeremy Renner).

Since they started, Jerry has been the undisputed champion of the game, having never been tagged from day one. However, with Jerry having his wedding during the month of May, the others see an opportunity to catch Jerry off guard and finally tag him. While this is taking place, the group, (more specifically Bob as he’s the head of a major company) are being interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter named Rebecca (played by Annabelle Wallis).

As one might expect, the plot here is quite bare, which on the surface isn’t a problem. Had the film been a fun, quirky movie with a bit of heart and charm, it could have been an enjoyable picture. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with “Tag.” Throughout its hour and 40 minute runtime, the film is either showing slapstick humor that’s way too over-the-top, or featuring dialogue between characters that just felt mean-spirited and at some points unrealistic.

It’s a real shame, too, because after the movie concludes, it shows that “Tag” was inspired by a true story, and I say inspired instead of based because it’s apparent they took a lot of liberties here. Before the credits roll, it’s shown that there was a group of about seven or eight guys who just casually play the game, goof off and have a good time with each other. By the look of the home videos shot, it’s all lighthearted and fun.

Instead of capturing that spirit, though, this film takes the idea of a group of friends playing a game of Tag for the fun of it to an overly competitive level and at points it felt like the picture was trying too hard. For example, the character Jerry was basically like a ninja in how he avoided being tagged, jumping off walls and all that. Again, when the film shows clips of the real guys, it was just a fun, easy-going game. Here it’s all taken to an extreme level that gets out of hand, and in between the scenes of them playing Tag, the characters mainly just tell dick jokes.

When thinking about how this film approached making an adaptation of this true story, another movie comes to mind. That movie is 2011’s “The Big Year.” See, “The Big Year” was another film based on a true story, that one about bird watching, and I walked in with kind of the same expectations to this one. However, that film didn’t go over-the-top with its slapstick, and actually had some heart, with relatable characters. The complete opposite of this one.

Speaking of characters, I really didn’t feel the chemistry here. The four don’t really share any camaraderie, and it was as if playing this game is more like a chore to them, rather than actually being an enjoyable part of their lives. As a result, it didn’t make it very fun to watch, either. Worst of all is Jerry, who seemed to be almost completely detached from the rest of the group, to the point where I was wondering why they’re friends. Plus, Jeremy Renner was awfully miscast in the role.

Everyone else are just kind of caricatures. Johnson’s character Randy, for example is a typical stoner while Hamm’s Bob is an average businessman. Not one character actually came across like a real person.

It also doesn’t help that the movie adds on extra things that are just unnecessary, like a love triangle between some of the characters or even the reporter character Rebecca.
It also doesn’t help that “Tag” serves up the weakest sauce I’ve seen in a while, by trying a last minute attempt at pulling heart strings. It was a poor try at giving the movie an emotional core that didn’t really exist.

Sitting through “Tag” was a terrible experience. It’s mostly slapstick or raunchy humor that’s all been done better in other movies. The characters don’t even seem to be having fun in their situation and that doesn’t translate well to the audience. Had this movie actually tried to be more like the home video clips they showed at the end, it might have actually been an alright flick. 1 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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