Released: 14th June
Seen: 2nd July
On January 28th, the Wall Street Journal printed an article titled “It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being ‘It’” which was about a group of 10 friends in their 40s who still continue playing a game of tag that they’ve been playing in some form since they were children. The article is actually pretty fascinating, some of the men involved are priests or tech company managers and in February of each year they all try and tag each other, even if that means dipping into some frequent flyer miles in order to go accross the country in order to hide in some bushes to tag someone. Tag takes this article as inspiration and creates something pretty funny, even though they decided to remove the priest from the story which is just a poor decision.
Unlike the original article, the movie whittles down the game from 10 players to 5. The movie also decides that the writer of the article, Russell Adams, should be a woman called Rebecca Crosby because then they can give her cheap romantic chemistry moments with Jon Hamm every so often. Taking the game down to a core group of 5 is nice but it does mean that they basically just made the story into The Hangover but with a game of tag. It still works to an extent but knowing that there could’ve been a large cast and potentially more very strange action setpieces do feel like a letdown. It’s a simple idea that really works wonderfully when it’s pushed to its limit and becomes a total farce, but they almost feel like they’re pulling back on some key moments. Sometimes they go for the extreme and in those moments it works, but then they pull back and it doesn’t work as well.
The thing that surprised me the most is how action-packed this film is, they really pushed the game of tag to the extreme with some of the sequences. The first big chase scene where they try to tag Chilli (Played by Jake Johnson) is almost lifted directly from a Jason Bourne movie, down to the shaky camera shots and insane stunts. When we get moments like that, it’s hilarious because of the sharp contrast between the game being played and the style it’s filmed in, I had mild flashbacks to Game Night from earlier in the year where they would basically film a complex action film but it was about something truly stupid. Those moments of embracing the stupidity of this idea works wonderfully, things like Jeremy Renner’s character basically having a Sherlock-style inner monologue where he works out just what his friends are going to do before they do it or the insane waterboarding scene, but when they don’t go all the way it just feels off.
To call this film a dark comedy would be charitable, there are moments when the comedy isn’t just dark but pitch black to the point where you can’t even see the joke at all. It’s a strange tone to take for a story that’s based on something that’s honestly quite charming and full of love. Here, it’s not even about friendship but just about a strange vendetta to tag one person who has never been tagged (Which isn’t part of the actual article, just for the record) and that does give it a weird tone for a story that, again, is insanely stupid. The moments that work are when we just have the main cast actually enjoying the game, doing insane action scenes just to tag someone else, or when Isla Fisher turns up as her Wedding Crasher’s character and calls everyone assholes before showing off baby photos to the female reporter (Played by Annabelle Wallis) who is still following this pack of weirdos trying to tag their best friend. The insane darkness of the story amps up at the end with a twist that’s just depressing, to an uncomfortable level.
For a quick hour and a half film that’s just meant to entertain, it does its job respectably well and doesn’t feel like it drags that much, but it’s certainly a film that’s going to get some mixed reactions depending on how much you’re into a dark comedy about a bunch of grown men playing tag. If they had kept the tone more consistent and made the friendship thing more prominent instead of a strange afterthought it’d work a lot better. The cast holds this piece together, but they don’t push it to the extreme high that it could’ve hit.
Also, stay during the credits. There’s a pretty fun moment where the cast performs “Mmm Mmm Mmm” by Crash Test Dummies and it’s actually kind of sweet.
Did you enjoy Tag? Let me know what you thought about it in the comments