Tag (2018)

(l-r) Jeremy Renner and Jake Johnson star in TAG. ©Warner Bros. Entertainment

Our friend is a psychopath, and I’m scared.“- Sable discussing Jerry.
‘You don’t stop playing when you get older; You get older when you stop playing’-Ben Franklin“- Hoagie

Tag, inspired by a true story, tells of five childhood friends who have been playing the same game of Tag for decades. The story of the movie is put in motion when Hoagie (Ed Helms) rallies his companions (Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, and Hannibal Burress) to finally dethrone Jerry (Jeremy Renner), who has never been tagged throughout the duration of the game. The impetus for their alignment is Jerry’s impending wedding and ostensible retirement from the tournament.

Some very enjoyable hi-jinks ensue.

This movie is pretty entertaining. The cast has great chemistry and do a superb job of selling both their individual characters and their friendship. One specific instance of this I liked took place at the wedding rehearsal. One of the men is catching up with a childhood sweetheart and his friends, watching from a distance, conjure up a mock conversation between the two and lightly rib on their friend. 

The film gets a lot of mileage out of how serious these adults take this kid’s game. Out of the offensive team, Hoagie is the most determined and stakes out whatever leadership they have, rallying the group and formulating their strategy. However, he can’t hold a candle to Jerry. He has dedicated lots of thought and preparation into maintaining his mantle: mapping out contingency plans, hiring decoys, setting up traps,etc.

A particular delight are Anna and Susan. Isla Fisher’s Anna is just as gung-ho about the game, if not more so, than her husband Hoagie. This aggressive enthusiasm provides many comedic moments, such as almost getting the group to waterboard a gym employee for Jerry’s location. Due to the nature of the plot, Leslie Bibb only gets a few moments to shine as Jerry’s partner Susan. Although she is set up as a typical shrew, she encourages the game when it doesn’t interfere with wedding and collaborates with Jerry’s conduct, even going to a questionable extreme. Together, their interactions with their husbands paint a better picture of marriage than we usually get.

There are some imperfections in the movie. There is a missed opportunity with the movie, which flirts with themes about how friendships change over time. As they grew older and scattered across the country, it is stated that this game has kept them together, but it’s not the same as when they were children. It’s unclear how much, if any, contact they have with each other outside of the game. At one point, Anna jokes that Hoagie barely knows his friends, which is reinforced when the group learns that Jerry attends AA. If this angle, which gets lightly sketched and then dropped, was explored more, the movie might have more staying power.

There are of course the usual contrivances that come with comedies. The characters are able to drop everything in order to play the game and often emerge unscathed from collisions that should be causing serious injuries. There are also roughly a handful of somewhat sophomoric jokes, most of them involving sex acts focused around a penis (nothing exposed), that I wasn’t fond of. My biggest gripe with the movie is the aforementioned extreme Susan and Jerry fall back on, which, while addressed as being “a dick move”, might ruin the movie for some people.

Overall, I would definitely recommend seeing the movie as it is pretty enjoyable. I can’t see myself watching it again in the near future, but not every movie has to be a comedy classic. Odds are, if you’re one to scoff at the premise, you won’t enjoy the movie. But if you can accept it, you’ll have a good time. 


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