Movie Review: Tag

Director: Jeff Tomsic

Cast: Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Jeremy Renner, Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm, Annabelle Wallis, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb

Runtime: 1hr 40min Rated R

Watch the trailer

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Every group of friends has their own traditions that they hold on to in order to stay in contact with each other. Some like meeting for dinner regularly, others maybe stay in touch through Skype or social media. One real group of friends from Spokane, Washington have been playing tag for one entire month out of the year for the past 30 years.

The movie, Tag is based on this incredible true story that was first published in the Wall Street Journal back in 2013. As a way to stay connected, the group made a pact to play this game from their childhood for an entire month every year. The normal rules of tag apply, however the length at which these 10 friends go to tag someone are pretty intense. They even have drafted their own rule book to keep things somewhat in check.

Image via the Wall Street Journal

For the movie adaptation, the group is condensed to only four friends, three of whom scheme to tag the 4th member of the group, Jerry (played by Jeremy Renner), who is about to retire from the game having never been tagged.

Just from an initial reading, it looks like the actors in the movie aren’t playing specific people in real life, more like caricatures from the group. For example, Jon Hamm plays Callahan, who is the CEO of a company. The real life counterpart is Brian Dennehy who, at least at the time the article was written, is the chief marketing officer for Nordstrom. That’s part of what makes this story so interesting; these are successful adults with wives and families who are playing this children’s game every year. Of course Jake Johnson plays the other extreme to round out the cast: a divorced, jobless, pothead who lives with his dad.

Tag is a fun, adult comedy overall that will have you laughing more times than not. It even manages to be touching at times. Many of the jokes are funny; some do feel a little forced and don’t quite hit their mark though.

This is definitely not a movie for kids as a large amount of the humor is derived from dick jokes and other forms of crude humor. If that’s not tour style of comedy, there may be large sections of this movie that you find hard to tolerate.

Most of what I found myself laughing the hardest at was the physical, slap-stick comedy of the movie. Tag at times feels like an R rated Tom and Jerry cartoon with a touch of Home Alone. Things get hilariously rough often, and you’ll need to suspend reality just a bit to enjoy the movie as they get up and brush off serious injuries. Each character would have certainly died in real life before reaching the end of the movie. Ironically, Renner actually broke both arms chair surfing during one of the scenes.

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Speaking of Renner, his character, Jerry is one of the highlights of the movie, despite being in it the least amount of time. It’s obvious why he has never been tagged; he’s always one step ahead of the rest of the group, constantly waging psychological warfare on his friends.

He’s also a master strategist, and there are a couple hilarious scenes where you see him mentally think through a few of the many ambushes he finds himself in. It reminded me of the Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes movies, where something very similar happens. Thankfully, the movie uses them sparingly, which succeeds to keep the joke from getting stale.

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Isla Fisher is also notably funny as Anna, the wife of Ed Harris’s character, Hoagie. “Over competitive” is an understatement for her, and while women are not allowed to play (according to the friend’s official rule book), she is far more aggressive with the group’s tactics than some of the friends actually playing.

Most of the other actors were great as well. Unfortunately, Annabelle Wallis and Rashida Jones both felt like they were in the movie only because they had to be. I don’t think that was necessarily their fault; they just weren’t given much to do.

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The ending takes and unexpected shift in tone that feels a bit out of place for the rest of the movie. It leaves you asking if it was “real” or just another strategy to attempt to tag Renner’s character. I understand why it’s there: to inject a little drama and bring home the idea that above all else, continuing to play this child’s game keeps this group of adults close. I just think there was probably a better way to get that message across without derailing the laughs quite so much.

Without spoiling too much, one of the best parts of the movie was actually seeing the video montage at the end with the real group of friends. You discover that much of what you thought was exaggerated or made up to make the movie funny was taken directly from the playbook of the real friends playing tag.

Final Verdict


Cinematic Quality: 6 out of 10

  • Pretty standard fare for what you would expect from the genre.
  • Most of the stunts were well executed.
  • Many of the injuries inflicted, while funny, were a little too brutal to be believable.

Fun Factor: 8 out of 10

  • Watching these adult friends play this extreme game of tag is hilarious and at times touching.
  • Some of the dick jokes did feel a little forced.
  • Shift in tone at the end of the movie felt out of place and stops some of the laughs.

Worth the price of admission: 4 out of 10

  • This is a great movie to see with Movie Pass or on a discount night. If not, you won’t miss anything waiting until it’s out on DVD.

Re-watch Value: 6 out of 10

  • Moderate rewatch-ability.
  • Worth getting on DVD to watch when you’re in the mood for slap-stick laughs.

Overall Score – 6 BFF’s out of 10