Tag, You’re Not It

A bunch of guys traveling across the country to chase each other with the goal of touching them when they least expect it.  That’s either a trip to Pride Weekend in NYC or the plot of the movie Tag.

The multi-buddy comedy is based on a true life story of friends who made an elementary school pact to never grow old by playing a month-long game of tag every year for the rest of their lives.  They reached middle age by keeping the game going with one of the guys being the most elusive, having never been It.

All Hail the Tag King

That guy is Jerry (Jeremy Renner), a self-assured fitness entrepreneur from a small town in the rural northwest. The rest of the gang has spread across the country over the years. The last guy tagged the previous May is Hogan (Ed Helms), and after being It all year, despite being a successful veterinarian, he takes a job as a custodian at a big company so he can tag one of its executive, Bob (Jon Hamm).

He tags him during an interview with a Wall Street Journal-esque paper, and convinces him to round-up the rest of the gang to finally tag Jerry.  The reporter invites herself along and changes the focus of the story.  It sounds far-fetched but is apparently based in truth.

Once back home they round out the gang with stoner Chili (Jake Johnson) and Reggie (Lil Rel Howery). Hogan’s über-competitive wife, Anna (Isla Fisher), comes along too.

The Gang’s All Here

In his iconic graduation speech/song Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen), Baz Luhrmen says “Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get the more you need the people you knew when you were young.”

That seems to sum up the motivation for most of the group.  But for Jerry. He’s spent so much time avoiding being It that he’s avoided his friends, even going so far as to not invite them to his May wedding because he’s worried they’ll disrupt the nuptials.  And once they do show up for wedding week, he has a backup plan to drive a wedge between Chili and Bob by inviting an old flame to the events.

This type of hurtful deceit is at odds with the spirit of the game, which is to foster fun and friendship.  It makes for good movie conflict, but if that’s the way things went down for real, then Jerry needs a strong cocktail and a good therapist.

Fake It ’til You Make It..

..to the end of the month.  The lengths Jerry goes to includes a faked pregnancy AND a fake miscarriage.  Clearly he and his bride are meant for each other. But everyone’s so suspicious of each other that when one friend is really in trouble, he’s the last to be by his side.

The biggest problem with this film is that none of the characters are particularly well hashed out and the roles aren’t all that challenging.  Jon Hamm is playing a good-looking, successful exec loved by the ladies. Not exactly a stretch from his break out role of Don Draper. Ed Helms plays the lovable loser despite actually being successful vet. Very Hangover-ish. And Jake Johnson? Let’s just say we don’t have to stretch our imaginations very far to envision us sharing a joint with him at a Hollywood party.

And we don’t really know a lot about the guys. Having a big ensemble cast always makes that hard, but we feel like we need a little more.  The real life group had 10 members, so let’s just be thankful producers cut it down to five or else we wouldn’t have known anything of substance about any of the characters.

On the whole this is definitely one you can skip seeing in theaters.  Not even sure if it’s worth renting. But if it pops up for free on Netflix, Prime, etc. and you have a couple of hours to kill, then go ahead and press play. It’s not bad, it’s just not particularly good.

If you’re looking for an entertaining It, then click here!

The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation

Pabst Blue Ribbon. It was the go-to choice for parents in the 80s, when these kids were growing up and formulating the rules for their game of tag.

Use it to pour into cups for a game of Beer Pong. Movies like Tag lend themselves to drinking games.


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