If anything can be said about Hollywood filmmaking today, it would have to be the fact that almost anything can be made into a movie these days. From spur-of-the-moment ideas to stories that have been boiling for decades, with the proper backing, almost anything can make its way to the big screen if it’s sold right. Some of the most interesting films, however, evolve from peculiar places, like an absurd newspaper clipping from The Wall Street Journal. Such was the case with “Tag,” the film inspired by said newspaper clipping about a group of adult friends engulfed in a near 30-year game of tag. What seemed like a premise that might run thin with the potential to make waves at the theater, however, ultimately proved to be something far more satisfying.
For one month out of the year, five highly-competitive friends (Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner) come together to continue their 30-year-long tradition of playing tag. Risking their necks, their careers and their relationships to make sure they’re not the last one “it,” the game has become their life and the one thing that keeps them all together. Their once-childhood game, however, has since matured into an all-out war with Jerry (Renner), the one friend who has never been tagged. On the eve of Jerry’s wedding, the no-holds-barred game is turned up a notch as the group unites to even the score once and for all.
However disposable the premise might be, something about this month’s “Tag” lent itself to be one of the more promising comedies I’ve seen so far this year. Be it the somewhat talented cast of comedians, pot-heads and suave competitors, or the mindless childish antics of five grown men playing “tag” for thirty years, the film drew me in with the confidence it wore on its sleeve. While there was obviously not a whole lot to expect from the film going in, “Tag” ultimately presented itself just how it was supposed to. With such an undemanding plot at its disposal, the only thing the story really desired was a compelling-enough cast to keep it afloat. While I’ll delve into the cast of the film soon enough, “Tag” offered pretty much the bare minimum of what you might have expected from its title, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Leaping off the back of a somewhat lacking five months of big-screen comedies, albeit a few exceptions like “Blockers” and the similarly-themed “Game Night,” “Tag” sought to enter its own bid in the well-casted pool of comedy cash-grabs of 2018. While it refrained from playing its crude card like many summer comedies tend to do from the start, spilling sex jokes and the like without hesitation, the objective of “Tag” remained simply to propel an undemanding premise with a viable, comedic cast. While not as ingenious as other modern comedies that don’t need crude humor to make them stand out, “Tag” managed to pull together a generous cast of players for its mediocre, yet highly-entertaining, game.
The cast, led by a suave and unruly Jeremy Renner, proved to be one of the film’s most valuable assets. Even while its premise neared melodrama as it neared its final act, the players at the center of the action lent a round of versatile performances to the film. From Ed Helms’ infantile protagonist to Renner’s straight-faced cunning, the film tilted much of its appeal on the interactions between its childlike adults trapped in a never-ending game of wits. Sometimes funny, sometimes dull, the cast managed to inject a good balance of emotion and childish arrogance into their roles.
While not the most high-brow comedy surely to hit theaters this year, “Tag” nevertheless left me in high spirits, as it delivered an enjoyable romp of childhood antics and the perils of accepting adulthood. While it’s hard to look at the film as much beyond its thin premise of “tag taken to the extreme,” the film harbored plenty of heart and humor than it initially led on. Making for a fun, mindless summer comedy, “Tag” never took itself too serious enough to become over-complicated. Instead, it took the childhood memories of one ambitious group of guys and brought it to the big screen.