04th Jul2018

‘Tag’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner | Written by Rob McKittrick, Mark Steilen | Directed by Jeff Tomsic

Tag-poster

Based, unbelievably, on a true story Tag tells the story of five highly competitive friends who, for one month every year, hit the ground running in a no-holds-barred game of tag they’ve been playing since the first grade—risking their necks, their jobs and their relationships to take each other down with the battle cry: “You’re It!” This year, the game coincides with the wedding of their only undefeated player, which should finally make him an easy target. But he knows they’re coming and he’s ready…

Besides the obvious desire to see how Hollywood could possibly turn an already crazy REAL story into a cinematic comedy, one of my main attractions for checking out Tag was that it was co-written by Rob McKittrick, the the writer/director behind Waiting, one of the best (in my opinion) of the early-2000s gross-out comedies that were put into production thanks to the success of American Pie. A film which starred Ryan Reynolds in one of his best comedy performances pre-Deadpool… Now Waiting is one of the few Pie-era movies that, even with the gross-out elements, also works as a comedy about deeply-felt friendship – just in this case the comraderie is between servers, cooks etc., at a restaturant.

McKittrick brings that same emotional core of deep-seated friendship to the ridiculousness of Tag. Which, come the conclusion, reveals just how much the film, and the game the guys play within it, is actually about friendship rather than the facade of a group of man-children who never grew up by constantly playing a “kids game”.

Yet at the same time there’s some real fun to be had while the focus IS on the game of tag. Seeing a group of grown men, including the normally smooth Jon Hamm, act like idiots is fun in of itself. But then you get the extreme lengths these guys go to in order to not be “it”. Hell, the film introduces Jake Johnson’s character in such an over the top way – think a live-action interpretation of Wile E. Coyote, complete with all the injuries he gets while hunting down Road Runner – that you can’t help but laugh… and wince!

And the laughs keep coming, huge belly laughs, snorting laughs. In fact I don’t think I’ve laughed at a film so much in years. The jokes are spot-on, the slapstick is old-school levels of crazy as all the cast commit to Buster Keaton levels of stuntwork, and the cast are clearly having a ton of fun and that translates perfectly to the screen. The only oddity is Jeremy Renner – who seems to be channeling a little Hawkeye in his role as the one member of the group who has never been tagged. Renner’s character seems too perfect, too extreme in his skillset, that when he’s on-screen it pulls you out of the film a little.

Full of laugh out loud moments, ridiculous (and sometimes painful looking) humour, Tag is easily a contender for comedy of the year.

***** 5/5

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