Cast: Ed Helms, John Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Jeremy Renner, Annabelle Wallis And Rashida Jones Director: Jeff Tomsic
Tag is an odd film – it has got an amazing star cast, a ludicrous premise which is based on true events and things get quite goofy, the comedy dissolving into action and vice-versa. The odd thing is, none of it is very funny. It is one of those passably trivial movies to watch on TV when there is nothing else to do, instead of the big starry theatrical fun that it promises.
After Game Night, this is another game-based film albeit minus the tongue-in-cheek panache of that movie. Hoagie (Ed Helms), Bob (John Hamm), Chilli (Jake Johnson), Kevin (Hannibal Buress) and Jerry (Jeremy Renner) are a group of man children who have played the game of ‘tag’ for 30 years. Jerry has always been the undisputed champion of this game so this time the others collude to make him ‘it’, going so far as to crash his wedding and make elaborate plans to entrap him. There is also a journalist named Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis) in the mix, who serves as the hand holder for the audience to understand these characters and whose WSJ article this film is apparently based on.
The problem is, things are not crazy enough when they absolutely needed to be considering the premise and the jokes do not render a strong enough punch. Every time the verbal comedy goes slack, the film tries to compensate with slapstick but neither of those tactics work in favor of the film. There is a strange sweetness to the film particularly in the third act, an effort to make the characters endearing and lovable, but the positioning feels unearned. It does feel like a treacly brother of The Hangover but you wish director Jeff Tomsic did not hold back on the zaniness and jettisoned the sentimental stuff altogether. The age difference in the cast members is also quite ridiculous, making it all the more difficult to digest that all these people are supposed to have grown up together.
While Johnson, Helms and Buress get to dive head first into improv comedy, Renner is quite the disaster; his attempts to be funny stick out like a sore thumb. Hamm is the odd one out, neither as grotesque as Renner nor as funny as the others, landing his one liners with the solidity of a sponge hitting a wall. The bromance seldom works mainly because of the odd combination of actors and forty-year-old men behaving like children is not the most agreeable sight to witness. There is also an uninteresting cameo from Rashida Jones as a woman whom two of the men had dated back in the day but her presence feels shoehorned for no real purpose than to have another recognisable name pop up randomly.
One tends to remember classic comedies like My Cousin Vinny and the late ’80s Eddie Murphy films and wonder what happened to the comedy genre and why there are so few good films in this decade. In the post Apatow era, there is a peculiar synthetic feeling to modern comedies that tend to look good but do not really have the heart or mind to warrant a revisit. Watching the film, it does feel like Tag wishes it were a classic, but is in fact quite the opposite.