The male bonding wears thin in this ‘Hangover’-lite comedy.
A movie about a group of male buddies who’ve been playing a one-month-a-year game of tag well into adulthood had numerous possibilities: a madcap chase caper, a heartfelt comedy celebrating the power of friendship, a reflection on the manchild syndrome. Tag tries to be a little bit of everything, and the strain shows; it winds up being another symptom of what’s proving to be a long cinematic Hangover, complete with Ed Helms in the lead.
Inspired by a true account reported in The Wall Street Journal, Tag opens with Helms nostalgically voice-overing his youthful self and his pals bonding through their ongoing game. Years later, they’ve grown up to be the expected types: the married man (Helms), the CEO (Jon Hamm), the burnout (Jake Johnson), and the nerdy guy (Hannibal Buress). Then there’s Jerry (Jeremy Renner), who for all this time has demonstrated an almost supernatural ability to avoid being "it". When the rest of the group learn he’s getting married, they go on a no-holds-barred quest to finally tag him. A curious Journal writer (Annabelle Wallis) and Helms’s wife (Isla Fisher) join them, solely in the interest of cast diversity; Wallis, in particular, disappears for undue stretches of screen time. Renner’s Bourne-esque strategies to avoid getting tagged generate the biggest laughs, amidst a predictable series of complications and profanities that lead to equally expected sentimentality and life lessons in the final act.
Closing-credits footage of the real-life players reinforces the idea that a documentary about the group might have been more entertaining and idiosyncratic; instead, Tag is just another less-clever-than-it-should-be spectacle of grown Hollywood stars acting like potty-mouthed kids.
Cast and crew