Movie Review: "Tag" (2018)
As a giant man-child, I am a mark for a premise that has childhood friends staying close throughout their lives by playing a childish game that forces you into utter ridiculousness. When you combine that with the fact that it's a "dramatic retelling" (i.e. comedy) of a totally legit, 100% true story it seems I was sent by fate to see this movie. As always, though, I temper my excitement to the best of my ability and approach as a critic.
Tag tells the story of childhood friends Hogan "Hoagie" Malloy (Ed Helms, The Hangover series), Bob Callahan (John Hamm, Mad Men), Randy "Chili" Cilliano (Jake Johnson, Fox's The New Girl), & Kevin Sable (stand-up comedian Hannibal Burress, NBC's 30 Rock) as they prepare for their annual game of tag that's been going for three decades! The 5th member of their group, Jerry Pierce (Jeremy Renner, Hawkeye from Marvel's The Avengers) is retiring from the game due to his impending wedding, and he is undefeated and untagged. This is their last chance to ensure that Jerry is "It". Along for the ride is Hoagie's intense wife, Anna (Isla Fisher, Wedding Crashers), and Jerry's soon-to-be bride, Susan Rollins (Leslie Bibb, Iron Man 1 & 2).
I remember hearing of the story from the Wall Street Journal years ago about these guys and their friendship. When news broke that it was being turned into a movie I thought that would be a hard one to pull off from both a tonal and writing standpoint.
So, does first-time feature director and TV executive producing veteran Jeff Tomsic succeed? By and large the answer is yes.
Here's the thing: this one is played for the absurdity as a straight goofy premise comedy. It was the right way to go. They assembled a talented cast where everyone plays a role that works for them. Helms is the dorky leader with heart, Hamm is the always right testosterone boost of the group, Johnson is the man-child / party boy, & Burress is the awkward headcase. Both ladies steal their scenes with overblown performances. And Jeremy Renner? He was a toned down version of Hawkeye. He's absurdly quick and lethal, every tag player's worst nightmare. If you're the cynical prick who needs utter reality you will hate his character (and probably the movie overall). It's clearly meant to be silly without being as silly as Naked Gun or Airplane!
The opening 20-30 minutes and the last 20-30 minutes are definitely stronger than the middle, which does make for some odd pacing at times. It's still a good time, though. It sounds like the world's most backhanded compliment, but it is more fun than funny. If I had to sum it up in one single word it would be fun. Ask for two words and I'd say damn fun.
I really enjoyed myself here. It's not the kind of movie that has insane rewatch value as an "instant classic", but it had more than enough genuine laughs and surprising heart. The use of soundtrack is well done. The last few minutes will give you a bit of what kids nowadays call "the feels". Remember, it is a true story and a damn good one at that; a bit of a testament to the beauty of childhood and the power of the friendship born of those simple and honest years.
Couldn't we all use a little more childish fun? The oft-repeated quote of the group says it best: "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."
I really fucking love that. It's a mantra of mine. Stay childish, y'all!