Plot: In an effort to stay close and keep their friendships alive, a group of lifelong buddies have played a game of tag for decades, with one month per year earmarked for the game session. May is when open season begins and the guys do whatever they can to not be it, otherwise a year of shame follows. While the game has been full of surprises over the years, one constant is Jerry (Jeremy Renner), who has never been tagged and seems to have supernatural skills. But Hogan (Ed Helms) has a plan this year, as he tells the others Jerry plans to retire from the game after his marriage, which means one last chance to break the streak. Meanwhile, a reporter hears all this while doing a story on Bob (Jon Hamm) and his business, so she decides to drop her original article and focus on this tag game. But is this finally the year Jerry’s luck runs out or will he retire at the top and never tagged?
Entertainment Value: This movie is based on real life events, but more in spirit than anything else, as little of the narrative and characters is even slightly rooted in the actual events. If you think a movie inspired by a game of tag is a thin premise, you’d be right and Tag struggles to tread water, leaning on random jokes, cartoon style pratfalls, and bro culture. The mile a minute, often unrelated humor is there to distract from a dull core narrative that is beyond shallow, then slams on the brakes and forces in unearned emotional beats. I think if the movie would have embraced how stupid this concept is, it could have been a wild, over the top ride, but the need to add sentiment tanks it and the finale is a hollow mess. That said, the movie has some fun moments and is much more mean spirited than you expect, despite the desperate attempts to inject feel good vibes into the mix. But if you appreciate random, mostly mean spirited humor, there’s a few good scenes in this one. I wouldn’t rank Tag with the worst comedies I’ve seen, but it is one of those movies that leaves little impression and once the credits roll, rarely returns to mind.
While the writing is uninspired and the humor is inconsistent, Tag’s cast manages to make it better than it should be, with over the top, often ridiculous performances. I think Hannibal Buress has the most interesting role here, as he looks decades younger than his costars and has little to no chemistry with the rest of the cast. He is utilized in odd ways as well, with a random line or there, rarely involved in the narrative and just a pop in for a joke at times. I think he was the funniest part of the movie, as he seemed to embrace how bad the material was and amplified that, while the others limped through trying to add sentiment and forced friendship. Isla Fisher is the other standout to me, in a wild and beyond aggressive performance that makes it clear who the alpha of this group would be. The rest of the cast is fine, but forgettable, with Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Leslie Bibb, Jake Johnson, and Annabelle Wallis involved. Ed Helms turns in a dull, albatross effort, as usual. Tag is a mediocre comedy that isn’t without laughs, but is mostly forgettable and bland.