Tag is a movie with a lot of people I want to see in good movies in a movie just competent enough to get by. Tag isn’t bad and actually tries to do some things that are at least partially interesting or original, but it can’t quite manage to break higher than forgettable summer comedy.
Tag, as the title implies, is about the game of tag, or at least a game of Tag. A group of friends, played by Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson, Jeremy Renner and Ed Helms, have been playing the same game of tag since they were children. Every year during the month of May they go to great lengths to sneak up on and tag each other. The movie starts with Ed Helms getting a job at Jon Hamm’s company just to ambush him with a tag. This leads to a journalist, played by Annabelle Wallis, deciding to write a story about this group.
Mostly the cast plays into their expected comic personas. Jake Johnson plays a stoner, Hannibal Buress is wry and kind of above it all, Jon Hamm is all arrogant self-assurance. Ed Helms is the kind of dweeby everyman. Jeremy Renner’s character, though, is some sort of tag savant, having never in the course of their game been tagged. When the other four find out that he has not invited them to his wedding, they team up to tag him before he gets married and quits the game forever.
While the movie expressly doesn’t let the women play the game, it also doesn’t do that thing where they are all nags. Ilsa Fisher plays Helms’ wife and gets so into things that keeping her out of the game seems to have been done for everyone’s safety, including her own. And Wallis’s reporter is mostly kind of an amused outsider, observing with interest even as lines are broken, though luckily they don’t quite get to torture. Finally, Leslie Bibb at first appears to be the wet blanket, but she merely wants to keep the game out of the wedding and is actually a master at helping her husband to be avoid a tag.
As these things go, initially only outrageous attempts to tag their friends, from the secret job to hiding in the closet of a therapist, soon spiral out of control, with breaking and entering and kidnapping and absurd lies about medical problems eventually being the methods employed to get a tag. That being said, the outrageous antics never really add up to comedy gold. Its attempts at a heartfelt look at friendship hit closer to the mark, though its central message of “you don’t quit playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing,” is not quite as profound as they seem to want it to be.
All told, Tag is a moderately entertaining movie, especially if you happen to be a fan of one or more of the actors involved.