Is it silly? Most definitely! Is it stupid? Sometimes --- absolutely! Is it laugh-out-loud funny? Yep --- occasionally. Why would grown men do this? I have no idea, even after seeing this movie, but apparently some men never do grow up. And playing the game of tag once a year for a month has kept them close-knit and young in spirit. This is the true premise of TAG.
Based on The Wall Street Journal article entitled "It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being It" by Russell Adams, TAG departs a tad from the original story which included 10 members of this group instead of the five we see here. And The Wall Street Journal reporter is now a woman, Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis). But TAG does capture the lengths these guys are willing to go to outdo one another to keep from being "it"!
Hogan "Hoagie" Malloy (Ed Helms) has learned that Jerry Pierce (Jeremy Renner), the only undefeated member of this motley crew, is getting married in May, the month of "tag" for these tall 6-year-olds. He shows up at Bob Callahan's (Jon Hamm) business in New York City dressed as a janitor to tag him and convince Bob that this is the year they can finally get Jerry --- at his own nuptials.
Rounding up Chilli (Jake Johnson) and Sable (Hannibal Buress), the four of them travel back to their home town of Spokane, Washington, hanging out in Hoagie's mom's house, in the basement --- or War Room --- plotting their takedown of Jerry. Hoagie's wife, Anna (Isla Fisher --- always a treat) is present, but she's not allowed to play cuz "no girls allowed" was established when they were children.
The shenanigans commence with Jerry outsmarting them at every turn. Some of the elaborate gamesmanship is truly hilarious. After a truce for the wedding is called, demanded by Jerry's fiancee, Susan (Leslie Bibb), there are a few minutes of wiggle room of which the foursome plan to take advantage.
One of those moments comes at the end of the rehearsal dinner held at a country club. At 5:00 p.m., Jerry takes off in a golf cart and a "high" speed chase ensues across the course and into the woods. There, Jerry, unrecognizable in a dark hoodie, multiplies. There are now several Jerrys running around the forest --- and the others get caught up in booby traps set by the groom. It's all in good fun --- and very amusing.
Director Jeff Tomsic (Comedy Central's "Broad City") has surrounded himself with five really awesome guys. I happen to totally enjoy all of them --- seriously, who doesn't like Hamm and Renner? Helms is terrific, as well as Johnson and Buress. They play off of one another extremely well --- and they look like they're having the time of their lives, most importantly.
Why the screenwriters, Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen, included a female reporter is absurd. Poor Wallis is given virtually nothing to do --- she's just another pretty face who seems to always be in the way. And the whole ongoing fight between Chilli and Bob over their childhood crush, Cheryl (Rashida Jones), is equally annoying. If they had just concentrated on the game of tag and all that entails, TAG would have been a better film.
As it stands, TAG isn't terrible --- it's actually fairly entertaining, when it isn't silly/stupid. And --- who doesn't want to watch Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner in a movie together???
Opinion: Very Mild See It Now!
If the premise wasn't based on a true story, TAG would just be a silly movie. Actually, it is still a silly movie, but at least it tries very hard to capture the antics of a group of Spokane, Washington friends who compete every May to outdo each other in their favorite childhood game. And it suggests the importance of old friends keeping in touch as they age, especially friends from before puberty.
The film's mantra is repeated three times: "We don't stop playing because we grow old --- we grow old because we stop playing". The "boys" in the cast attribute the quote to Ben Franklin, but the source is actually George Bernard Shaw, and what a good argument for husbands who want to play golf --- and/or tag --- with their buddies.
TAG is an uneven comedy with some very funny bits, but at other times, not so much. The initial confrontation between two of the friends, Hoagie (Ed Helms) and Bob (Jon Hamm), is the funniest. The rest of the film has a hard time living up to that first scene. It also introduces us to Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis), a Wall Street Journal reporter trying to interview Bob for his business acumen. Once she realizes what's going on, she offers to follow the group, sensing a unique human interest story.
A common theme in TAG is guessing whether any of the players is pretending or are their afflictions really real? The talented cast seems to be having a ball with all this nonsense, including Jake Johnson as Chilli, Isla Fisher as Hoagie's uber-competitive wife Anna, and Rashida Jones as Cheryl, a former flame of Chilli and Bob. The fifth member of the group is Sable (Hannibal Buress). Unfortunately he is given the least comedic lines, but the actor does give the group diversity.
TAG is certainly a different premise for a movie, and although it doesn't always click, it proves that boys will always be boys. It's also a reminder of outdoor diversions some of us used to play as kids in the 50s and 60s, like Giant Step, Red Light and Ollie Ollie In Come Free --- all foreign to today's youth, stuck in someone's living room, obsessed with video games.
Opinion: Wait for DVD