So Tag initially wasn’t a film on my radar. I heard the premise of the film and saw one of the trailers and didn’t really think much of it. However, after how much I enjoyed Game Night, I thought it may be worth giving this another shot given that there are similarities between the two. After watching the film, I made the right call. Even though it has received mixed reviews overall, I had a lot of fun with Tag and it sits alongside Game Night as one of the best pure comedies of the year.
Inspired by a true story, the film is about a group of friends (Hoagie, Callahan, Jerry, Chilli and Sable) who have been playing the same game of tag for 30 years, dedicating May of each year to playing the game. After finding out that Jerry was going to stop playing after that year, Hoagie, Callahan, Chilli and Sable, along with Hoagie’s wife Anna go back to their hometown to tag Jerry, since Jerry has not been tagged once in the years the game has been played, using Jerry’s upcoming wedding to find opportunities to tag him. In tribute to the real life story, the characters are followed around by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who initially is writing a profile on Callahan but instead focuses her story on the tag game. Now, as is true with all good comedies, it’s hard to properly describe the film as it risks ruining all the best jokes and with tag, you really need to be surprised by them. A lot of the best jokes come from how seriously the characters take the game, the ludicrousness of the whole film being comedic gold. There’s also a solid heart at the centre of the film though. The film makes it clear that the characters like playing the game as it makes sure they stay connected with each other, and it’s even helped them through difficult times, the friendship that we see between the main characters being genuinely touching at points. The film never condemns the game of tag, it presents it as a way for the group to stay in touch and that they always have a way to connect with each other.
The cast meanwhile add to the comic absurdity of the film. Again, I don’t want to go in depth to avoid spoiling the film, but you get pretty much the exact performances you expect from Ed Helms, Jake Johnson and Hannibal Buress. Jon Hamm meanwhile really gets to showcase his comedic skills, getting some great laughs with his deadpan delivery of the jokes (I recommend you watch his episode of Richard Ayoade: Travel Man if you want another example of this). Annabelle Wallis as Rebecca, the journalist from the Wall Street Journal is in more of a passive role as an observer to the chaos, whilst Leslie Bibb gets some great moments near the end of the film. On a negative note, Rashida Jones is completely wasted here, being used as a prop for Chilli and Callahan to fight over. The comedic highlights though are Isla Fisher and Jeremy Renner. The intensity of Fisher’s performance, showing the extent to which she’ll aid the game and the sudden bursts from calm and comforting to incredibly aggressive as the game goes on remind you just how good a comedic actress Fisher is. Renner meanwhile essentially plays Jerry as Hawkeye, incredibly intense, devious, always thinking several moves ahead and completely ruthless, a lot of the best laughs coming from just how elaborate everything he does to avoid getting tagged is.
On a technical level the film is impressive as well. Firstly, praise has to go to the effects team for successfully hiding the fact that Jeremy Renner had broken his right elbow and left wrist during filming by covering up the casts. It is something that could have easily gone wrong but is executed seamlessly. Praise also has to go to the stunt team, particularly for when we see the group try to tag Jerry throughout the film. The cinematography and music meanwhile help to showcase how intensely the characters take the game, the scenes where the group try to tag Jerry having a similar style to the deduction scenes in the Guy Ritche Sherlock Holmes films, and one scene having the vibe of a horror film, some of the camera moves in that scene reminding me a lot of The Evil Dead films, which helps to make the personal stakes of the film more impactful on a visual level.
Overall, I found Tag to be a very pleasant surprise. It won’t change your life but I found myself laughing consistently and hard at most of the jokes in the film, the cast all work well with each other and the touching moments about the friendship of the main characters gives the film a bit more depth than other comedies. I didn’t think much of it when it was announced but after seeing it I would recommend you give it a chance.
My Rating: 4.5/5