Do you want to come over for a game night, or would you prefer to play a game of tag? Every couple of years Hollywood comes up with a story idea that is so good that two studios end up releasing similar films, which will undoubtedly confuse audiences. Earlier this year saw “Game Night” be released and now comes “Tag.”
Inspired by a Wall Street Journal article profiling a group of middle-aged men who kept a game of tag going for over 20 years, “Tag” offers an exaggerated version (hopefully) to their antics. The rules of the game are simple; every year during the month of May the group of five childhood friends commence playing the game, despite living in different states and being in different places in their lives. Whoever is tagged last when the clock strikes midnight on June 1 is considered the loser and must live with the shame and stigma for the entire following year.
One of the guys, Jerry (Jeremy Renner), has somehow evaded ever being tagged and this year might be their last chance to finally catch him. Their only problem? In order to do so, they must crash his wedding.
From the outset, the film is hobbled by issues with the situation. No it’s not what you’re thinking; the game of tag is actually the most believable part of it all. Jerry never invited his best friends to his wedding. He tries to explain that his fiancée didn’t want the wedding ruined, but that he also knew that they would show up for the wedding anyway. But seriously, if they were that concerned about the wedding getting ruined, why not get married in June?
Writers Rob McKittrick (“Waiting”) and Mark Steilen (TV’s “Shameless”) are responsible for having cobbled together the screenplay. It might have been more coherent if they had left it to a group of toddlers to construct, instead of these two grown men. They have no care for details and have left gaping plot holes that are big enough to drive an 18-wheeler through. Even worse, the men couldn’t write a fully fleshed out woman if they had the dialogue dictated to them. The female characters disappear randomly at times, rarely have anything more to do than look pretty, and stay out of the way of the guys.
McKittrick and Steilen are attempting to tap into the dude-bro comedies from a decade ago, such as “The Hangover” (which also starred Ed Helms) and “Wedding Crashers (which also starred Isla Fisher), but pales in comparison. The reason that those movies worked is because at the end of it all, they had heart behind them. “Tag” tries to do this by constantly referring to hokey folk sayings that are supposed to offer some deep meaning. Instead it makes you wonder if some of these guys really just need to find a good shrink.
When you aren’t laughing there isn’t enough happening onscreen to keep from wondering about the film’s flaws. One such thought is the difference in age between the five friends. Jon Hamm and Renner, both born in 1971, both appear visibly older than Jake Johnson and Hannibal Buress, who was born in 1983. Normally this wouldn’t get more than a passing shrug, but the 12 year age game is just another example of how slapped together the film feels.
Isla Fisher is really the MVP of the gang here. Despite being given almost nothing to do throughout the film, the actress is able to still make her mark and steal her scenes – similar to how she stole the spotlight in her breakthrough role in “Wedding Crashers.” The fact that Fisher doesn’t get better roles is a travesty. She’s one of the best comedic actresses working today and yet, this is the best that we can do for her?
There’s a good kernel of a movie somewhere hidden inside “Tag,” but it’s not on the screen. The filmmakers waste their cast, especially the talented actresses in it, and get bogged down in trying to create over the top set pieces that they forgot to actually construct a story worth telling. The characters’ game has been running for 20 years and watching this film might age you just as much.