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DVD Review: Tag

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In 2013 an article in the Wall Street Journal appeared that reported on a group of ten men that had been playing the same game of tag for 23 years.  It was fiercely competitive, with wives becoming enlisted as spies and cross-country travel involved as the friends’ lives changed over decades.  For the entire month of February, it was open season.  Be the last man tagged come 11:59pm on the last day of the month and you were “It” for an entire year.  Sound crazy? Absolutely.  But just crazy enough to get the Hollywood treatment in the new film, Tag.

While the movie itself, of course, exaggerates circumstance, the concept is exactly the same.  In this version, five friends have been involved in the game since childhood.  There’s Chilli (Jake Johnson), the stoned divorcee who has seemingly lost direction, Sable (Hannibal Buress) whom we meet during a therapy session, Bob (Jon Hamm), the successful, suave businessman, and the leader of the pack Hoagie (Ed Helms) who brings the gang together for one last special mission.  It seems the fifth of their group, Jerry (Jeremy Renner) has gone the entire span of the game without being tagged.  Before he gets married and leaves the game forever the quartet is determined to make him “it” for both the first and the final time.  However, Jerry is elusive and described as “feral” when cornered.  It won’t be an easy task, even with Hoagie’s wife, the uber competitive Anna (Isla Fisher), giving them a hand.

Overall, the concept of this film is funny and original enough to get me into the theatre.  The fact that it is based (however loosely) on a true story? Even better.  But the overall execution is filled with hits and misses.  To give you an overall idea of how it plays out imagine Renner’s character from The Bourne Legacy getting dropped into The Hangover, crossing over with The Wedding Crashers in a film directed by Judd Apatow.  The film can be at its slapstick funniest during scenes where the steely-eyed Renner is outrunning his friends and all of their inner monologues come to life.  The cast is talented, fairly well utilized, and more than up for the game, especially Fisher who is largely a scene stealer.  The premise actually becomes endearing, a way for these men to stay in each other’s lives throughout an ever-changing landscape of adulthood.  Tag does, in fact, have some moments of joy before the third act when the running gag becomes over-exaggerated and over-extended.

Written by Rob McKittrick and Mark SteilenTag begins with enough promise but becomes repetitive and sloppy the longer things drag on.  Director Jeff Tomsic, largely known for television and shorts, could have derived a better result had he trimmed the fat a little – especially a joke regarding a miscarriage that becomes exceptionally insensitive when it drags on for an inordinate amount of time (there’s a good ten minutes saved!).  At almost two hours running time this game of Tag ages, and not particularly well.  Despite the long lead up, the ending just seems forced and leaves you feeling like the end credits may be one of the funnier parts of the movie (fans of the Canadian band Crash Test Dummies will definitely enjoy).

Compared to the comedy Game Night, released earlier this year, Tag just doesn’t have the same flare and stamina to live up to its smarter relative.  That said, for a hot summer’s evening, Tag may be just the right film choice, a comedy that will be entertaining but largely forgettable.  It’ll get you laughing but won’t require a lot of deep discussion over drinks on the patio. Tag may serve its intended purpose, but despite best intentions just won’t become the “it” movie of the season.

Tag hits DVD in the UK on 5th November.

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