a critiQal film review Tag (2018)

Plot: One month every year, five highly competitive friends hit the ground running for a no-holds-barred game of tag - risking their necks, their jobs and their relationships to take one another down. This time, the game coincides with the wedding of the only undefeated player. What should be an easy target soon becomes an all-out war as he knows they're coming to get him.

627 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 8s)
  • ...a talented cast and a story that seems destined for comedic gold is severely waylaid by its obvious lack of direction.

After seeing the better-than-expected Upgrade (2018) last week, the bar was set high for the other recent release we were watching today: Tag. Based on a surprising true story, this film had gotten a lot of hype. But, would this comedy be able to live up to expectations?

Ed Helms leads the cast in Tag. After hitting it big with surprise hit The Hangover (2009), he’s found a niche for himself making off-the-wall comedies. And Tag, at first, seems to fit that bill. A film based on a true story of a 23-year game of tag? This seems like a shoo-in for Helms, and he does his normal zany antics to help sell the story. He’s gotten pretty good at this type of film by now, and it shows in his performance.

Jeremy Renner, on the other hand, is more seen as an action hero these days, thanks to his turn as Hawkeye in the Marvel Universe. But, with his notable absence from Avengers: Infinity War (2018), viewers may be seeing his performance in Tag in a different light. Is this the movie that kept him from that big flick? Either way, he gives viewers a bit of that Hawkeye persona in Tag, spoofing his action hero status a bit with his inner monologues even while performing at peak levels. He brings a wry sense of humor (and overblown conceit) to his role. And he makes it work with ease.

The rest of the cast is top-notch as well. Whether it’s Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb or the rest, they all deliver in Tag. There’s a real sense this a dream team ensemble cast for comedies, and viewers aren’t disappointed with their performances.

Unfortunately, there is a lot to disappoint in Tag, and it all seems to come from its lack of direction. Based on such a bizarre yet fun true story about a group of childhood friends who have used the game to keep close despite life’s little curveballs, it seems like the perfect basis for a comedic bro-bonding film.

And yet there’s something missing in Tag. While the actual tag sequences are fun and even weirder than viewers may expect, the film doesn’t quite know how to get past those vignettes to create a compelling overall vision. Instead, after delving into a cringe-worthy turn, the film then tries to suddenly switch tones…and both the cast and the viewer find themselves floundering without support. This abrupt change, especially coming after the disastrous twist, never sits well with the viewer. Instead, the viewer finds themselves questioning (along with one of the characters) how real – or unreal – this new twist is. Is a long punchline for a joke? Or is this for real? The viewer is never quite sure, even as the film draws to a close.

And that’s downright annoying. With a story basis that seems the perfect fit for a comedy, and a talented cast performing solidly, Tag should have easily been able to be seen favorably in comparison to Game Night (2018) for a hilarious recent comedy. Instead, it’s lack of purpose seems all too obvious, and if it’s obvious the director can’t decide which way the film should be playing out (heartfelt bro bonding or gag-abounding silly comedy), how is the viewer?

Despite its apparent dream team comedy cast and solid backing, Tag ends up being a mess. Although it’s highlighted by a few hilarious tag vignettes, its uncomfortable turns into homophobia and abusive profanity – not to mention its abrupt, and unexpected, serious turn – leave the viewer feeling just plain disappointed.

Tag, then, is a comedic concept that lacks the direction to turn it into the comedy spectacular it so easily could have been. And that is anything but funny.

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