Our greatest fear in life, outside of dying alone, is that we grow up to forget the enthusiasm of our youth. We know the exact right choices to make and routinely execute them with expert precision. It’s like a litmus test for personal responsibility. Get a career, get married, have kids and buy a home. There may even be a dog or cat adoption in there somewhere. At some point, you wonder if all this is by someone else’s design and you are just taking a page from their script. Does any of this really make you happy, and if not, do you keep it up for everyone else’s sake? The only way to know for sure, and obtain clarity through perspective, is to reflect on what you used to do.
You used to be a kid that hung out with your friends and played sports all the time without a worry in the world. Your only concern was getting home before dark. You came up with stupid jokes and ridiculous pranks to entertain each other with. You learned through strangely, meaningful conversation that somewhere out in this huge world of ours is your dreams waiting to come to fruition; and that idea excited you to no end.
As you become older, you may find your dreams transform or change entirely. You become confused about what it is you wanted and forget what that initial energy of ambition and inspiration felt like. Well, it turns out there is a group of friends that never forgot that chapter in their life. They remind themselves every year with a game of tag. They’ve been doing it for decades and, thanks to a Wall Street Journal article, now their story has been adapted into a film. It’s too silly a concept to be true, but it is and that’s what makes it fun.
In Tag, directed by Jeff Tomsic, Hoagie, played by Ed Helms, is trying to get the gang back together for one last month of tag before their friend Jerry (Jeremy Renner) gets married and retires from the game forever. The crew consists of Randy (Jake Johnson), Bob (Jon Hamm), Sable (Hannibal Buress), and Hoagie’s wife Anna (Isla Fisher). The rules are simple. If the person that was last tagged tags you with their hand, then you are it. Seems simple enough and yet Jerry is the only one in the group who has never been it. His game is stellar and he’s only improved his skills in the 30 years since they started, so getting him will be no easy task. Hoagie decides the only way this will work is if all of them work together to take down Jerry. Jerry’s reflexes may be remarkable, but he prefers to tease his friends by using elaborate ruses to elude them. There are only so many chances they have to catch Jerry and they all agreed the wedding itself was off limits. It’s a tall order that Hoagie and the gang are determined to conquer.
I was initially only entertained by the concept of a movie about tag with grown-ups, but I think the actors and the director took that idea and came up with a pretty funny film. I laughed out loud several times, although you may laugh and cringe in some parts. The pacing and editing of this movie also add to the energy. The scenes don’t drag on for too long and you’re always left with a hilarious line or tender moment every few minutes.
I’m not a big fan of Ed Helms acting style, but I think it works well here. He has a leadership role in this particular story, yet doesn’t overdo it with a large personality or usurp the presence of the ensemble cast. The cast, in fact, has real chemistry. I believed that they could all be lifelong friends with a strange obsession for tag. Jon Hamm’s Bob character is the successful businessman who brings the reporter from the Wall Street Journal along for the ride. It’s nice to watch his comedic side, especially his work on Kimmy Schmidt. Jake Johnson is outrageous as the stoner friend Randy who tokes up before every situation. His comedic timing with the cast is great, but specifically with Hamm. I couldn’t get enough of his terrible decision making. Hannibal Buress as Sable rounds out the group and he is full of one-liners. This whole scenario to him is ridiculous, but he’s a good friend who is willing to see it through. Isla Fisher’s Anna character is not technically in the group, but she is allowed to help out. I think she provides the majority of the profanity in this movie. Her competitive nature provides an explosive element throughout. Some additional characters are played by Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, and Nora Dunn. I think everybody brought something to the table and that helped elevate the film.
Jeremy Renner is Hawkeye. I mean he’s Jerry, but seriously he’s Hawkeye. If this was called Hawkeye and Friends, you wouldn’t notice the difference. His abilities in this movie are practically superhuman. Even without the bow and arrow. It’s those abilities that make his scenes work though. When he anticipates his friends’ moves, he narrates their actions and then proceeds to defeat them. Every interaction is a lesson in humility for them. Their only hope is finding a flaw in his careful preparation and that journey is what makes this such a fun movie.
The story is not fully fleshed out from a character standpoint, but it doesn’t need to be. There are also some glaring plot holes that they choose to overlook for comedic effect. While I did compliment the pacing, the thin story made me think they could have trimmed the runtime.
Tag is a fun comedy and you will have a good time if your sense of humor is a bit raunchy. Ed Helms does a decent job in this film and Jeremy Renner brings his A-game. Jon Hamm and Jake Johnson are funny. Hannibal Buress provides some subtle humor that cracks me up almost every time. Isla Fisher reminded me of her Wedding Crashers performance in this movie. I also liked the more serious moments with Rashida Jones. She helped to even out the absurdity. Tag is probably not going to win awards, but it will win a few chuckles. It may even encourage friends to stay in touch long after they walked away from the playground. No matter how much time passes, remember to hold onto that part of you that makes life special. We all grow up. Doesn’t mean we can’t stay young.
Synopsis: A small group of former classmates organize an elaborate, annual game of tag that requires some to travel all over the country.
Director: Jeff Tomsic
Writers: Rob McKittrick, Mark Steilen
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb
Runtime: 1 Hour, 40 Minutes