Directed by Jeff Tomsic
Starring Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones and Leslie Bibb
On UK Digital October 22nd and DVD November 5th, 2018

by Joanna Orland

Fiercely funny and surprisingly (somewhat) poignant, Tag may appear to be a generic run-of-the-mill modern comedy, but raises its game to win my laughs and affection.

‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing,’ is the sentiment behind the decades-long game of tag, played by the film’s protagnonists. The lengths they will go to to tag their friends is ridiculously silly, and most shocking of all, not far off from the true story on which this film is based (if the footage in the end credits is anything to go by). Their game elevates to levels of insanity as four of the friends (Helms, Hamm, Johnson and Buress) unite in their mission to finally tag the never-tagged Jerry (Renner). There is a blink-and-you-miss-it subtle layer of depth to the film as it explores male friendship, while hinting at and gently subverting comedy and narrative tropes.

The marketing of Tag does the film no favours – you wouldn’t be able to imagine that this film has heart as well as solid laughs from looking at the generic poster of the five main actors pulling stupid faces. What the poster and marketing is really missing is Isla Fisher – the standout star who has the most and greatest laughs. She is effortlessly hilarious as Anna, in such a relaxed way that I feel she must’ve improvised most of her lines. She should really have had an even bigger role with how much she stole this film away from the very good male performances, but alas, the game of Tag has its rule of ‘no girls allowed’ since it was initiated all those years ago. This is such a bro-heavy masculine premise that it could stray into toxic territory, but the way they position Anna as more than just a wife – fearsomely too aggressive for this game – puts a better twist on things. And while her role isn’t as prominent as the others, it’s certainly the meatiest, or at least she makes it so.

While the casting may appear to be quite generic, it actually works to the benefit of the film as it somewhat plays with expectations. Ed Helms may be doing his usual thing as Hoagie, but he does it so well – especially in an array of disguises. Jon Hamm has a newfound succesful comedy career after his years as the dramatic Don Draper in Mad Men. By being one of the goofiest and loosest in his performance as Bob, he counters his character’s CEO good looks and charm to garner some genuine laughs, especially in the unexpected way of slapstick – there’s nothing like a ludicrously handsome and well-dressed man flying through the air to tag someone screaming, “MUTHAFUCKA”! Jake Johnson is one actor I usually find annoying, but to position him as stoner Chilli helps to tone down his energy; to have Hoagie’s mom fancy him over the objectively handsome Jon Hamm is also played for laughs. Hannibal Buress as Sable does unfortunately feel like a token casting, but manages to shine through with some of the best lines of the film.

And then there’s Jeremy Renner as Jerry – much like Hamm, Renner made a place for himself at the ‘big boys’ table in Hollywood and would normally seem out of place in such a potentially bog-standard comedy. He too plays against his assets to take his serious tough guy image to new heights in a combatative and slick performance. He is likely taking notes from Jason Statham in Spy and Jon Hamm on set on how to take a career known for action and/or drama and spin it to great comedic effect. It works really well here for Renner, but I’m not sure how versatile his future comedy career could really be, whereas I could watch a dapper Jon Hamm get knocked down by a chair on repeat, for life.

As Tag builds to its playful finale, it’s worth settling in for the end credits which features the most random and hilarious rendition of Crash Test Dummies’ Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm. It just gets weirder and less sensical with every Mmm, and captures the fun and silly kind-hearted spirit of the film before it.


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