“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”
While the concept of a film about grown men running around acting like children doesn’t sound like a progressive idea, its newest iteration has some critics calling it the funniest movie of 2018 so far. Based off of a 2013 Wall Street Journal piece, the film Tag follows a group of middle-aged men who have been playing the same game of tag since childhood. Over several decades multiple laws and amendments have been made but the root of the game stands true: no matter what, they reserve one month every year to play. Hoping to not end the month being “it”, these friends take tag to the ultimate level by bringing wives/friends in as distractions, wearing disguises, planting booby-traps, even flying across the country, turning it into a bloody full-contact sport.
We pick up on the story 30 years into it, where the friends have come together to put all their efforts into finally tagging Jerry (Renner) who has managed to survive decades of the game without ever being tagged. It’s the weekend of Jerry’s wedding, Hoagie (Helms) has convinced his friends that since Jerry is planning to retire from the game that it is their duty to put their combined efforts into tagging him at all costs. When confronted by his friends, Renner turns to his Bourne Legacy skills with scenes of slow-motion play by plays, where his supernatural agility and maneuverability skills make him seem more like a sorcerer or even a wild animal. I spent a lot of the film waiting for the sentimental storyline to emerge, as previously seen in these types of comedies, but the tone never really invested in that and when it touched on it I almost was waiting for the jokes to drop.
Making his feature film debut, director Jeff Tomsic brings together a star-studded cast of some dramatic heavy hitters (Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm) and convinces them to flex their comedic muscles. Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, and Hannibal Buress step into their already comfortable comedy shoes and deliver raunchy dry humor that left audiences in stitches. The original group of friends were 10 white men from Spokane, Washington so shout out to the director for whittling the group down to 5 and throwing in the diversity of Hannibal because his comedy stylings were hands-down the funniest, one of the most relatable parts of the film. Bringing her firecracker presence, Isla Fischer plays Helm’s intense wife who gets overly competitive but helps her husband up his game. Her quick, overly enthusiastic lines add a hilarious female presence to help balance the scales of comedy.
The movie is full of slapstick humor, inner monologues, and a small bout of romantic tension but the root of the story is based on the importance of friendship. This group of friends has refused to let reality destroy their inner child and the emotional resonance of this is presented to us in a refreshing, albeit crude at times, humorous romp that made me want to hit the closest person to me before running away screaming “you’re it!”
It definitely isn’t for all audience types, but if you’re looking for a night where you set your maturity aside, connect with your inner child, and laugh while doing it, then maybe head to the theatre and get tagged yourself.