Tag (2018) is a new comedy directed by Jeff Tomsic and based on a true story. A real-life group of friends has a mantra of “…we don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing,” and have been playing the same game of tag for almost three decades. After seeing Tomsic’s film, it seems that a documentary about the real-life guys would have been much more entertaining and endearing than the feature film we got. It’s not all bad, but the humor just never landed for me and – ultimately – I was actively checking my watch with anticipation of my chance to leave the game.
Tag isn’t a film you need to rush out and see
Hogan ‘Hoagie’ Malloy (Ed Helms) is assembling his friends for their annual month of May Tag game. This year is crucial, as Jerry Pierce (Jeremy Renner), the only one who has never been tagged, is planning on retiring after this season, as he moves on with his adult life. All of the guys have stuff going on, but Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm), Randy ‘Chilli’ Cilliano ( Jake Johnson), and Kevin Sable (Hannibal Buress) all join Hoagie as they plot to finally tag the untaggable.
Hamm is the highlight of the film to me. It should be illegal for any person to possess as much charm as this man seems to ooze every time he is given the chance. Hamm is able to instantly win me over every time I see him in a movie. Even in a film where I was admittedly checked out before the first moment began, I couldn’t help but find Bob to be a compelling character. Note: he’s got the blandest name of all, as Kevin goes by Sable for most of the film. Yet, Bob seems to be among the most successful of the friends, and it’s his interview about his company with the Washington Post journalist, Rebecca Crosby (Annabelle Wallis), that makes the Tag story a thing. While in the meeting, Hoagie has gone out of his way to get hired as a janitor, so that he can tag Bob. He picks the time during the interview and Bob, surprisingly, attempts to escape Hoagie rather than go on about his business. Rebecca is intrigued by this whole idea and insists she accompanies them on their journey.
Although Sable seems to have some severe trust issues based on his introduction, Chilli appears to be the biggest screw up of the group, having lost his wife and constantly smoking pot. Really, the film isn’t all that interested in any of the individual’s needs or goals, as it ultimately boils down to Hoagie’s need to tag Jerry. Everyone wants to get the ungettable in the film, but Hoagie has made it an obsession. In return, Jerry is made to seem like a Terminator and gets some very cool action-type slow-motion sequences reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films. Jerry narrates what he is going to do to elude the would-be taggers, and those scenes are probably the best moments in the film.
How that plays out is extremely unsatisfying, and feels a bit like a tacked-on sentimental ending. In fact, the whole premise that this game has kept them close seems to be at odds with the relationships in the film. They seem to be almost clueless about each other outside of the game. Yet, by the film’s end, we are supposed to buy the idea that this game has kept them so close.
In the end, Tag was a fairly bland comedy with a few moments worth seeing. While I usually love Buress in these comedies, I felt like he’s finally just done with the whole process. He’s still generally funny, but many of his jokes just didn’t land for me this time around. Helms is a little more controlled than his usually over-the-top spastic character he often plays, but it still just didn’t work for me. Tag earns the Not a Total Waste of Time.