‘Tag’ not as fun as I remember

By Micha Thurston

Watching a group of men play a game of tag sounds like it could be an entertaining idea. But when there are too many characters who lack development and redundant subplots, the film drags on for 30 minutes too long.

“Tag,” directed by Jeff Tomsic and released June 15, tells the kind of “best buds’”story that has become a staple of the big screen. The movie relies on stock characters and stereotypes for laughter: ‘Hoagie,’ played by Ed Helms, the happily married family man with kids who are never seen but repeatedly mentioned; Bob, played by Jon Hamm, the traditionally attractive rich friend; ‘Chilli,’ played by Jake Johnson, the unemployed and vulgar pothead; Jerry, played by Jeremy Renner, the naturally talented friend that makes the others secretly jealous; and Kevin, played by Hannibal Buress, the clueless friend they all feel bad for.

Renner’s character has never been tagged, meaning the other characters do absolutely everything they can to avoid being ‘it,’ including swinging off a balcony from an electrical wire, hiring dozens of look-a-likes to ward off the chaser and even faking a miscarriage.

The most interesting aspect of the film is that it is based on a true story. The Wall Street Journal published a story in Jan. 2013 about a group of middle-aged men who played a game of tag for more than 23 years. The end credits feature video of these men that confirms a lot of the film’s narrative.

Most of the film details how the ridiculous game is played for the entire month of May every year and how a rulebook requires that no women are allowed to participate, even though Hoagie’s overly enthusiastic wife Anna, played by Isla Fisher, would’ve made a fantastic asset.

The film might have been a mild success if not for the last quarter of the story. By exploring themes of friendship and the loss of adolescence and the ones you love, the film tries to turn a raunchy “The Hangover”-like comedy into a drama about friendship.

Then there is Rashida Jones’s character, Cheryl, the love interest for both Johnson and Hamm’s characters. She appeared on screen too many times—usually in slow motion with bouncy hair—but adds absolutely nothing to the plot other than a definitive moment for Hamm’s character when he decides to let the love feud go. 

Annabelle Wallis plays Rebecca, the writer from the Wall Street Journal who reported this story. Her character is forgettable and is only on screen to serve as the sole sane person in the film.

Buress, no matter how dim his character, actually saves the film by being the funniest of the group, providing comic relief in a comedy that is not funny. Despite all of its problems, the film is worth watching and will leave you smiling when you remember that, yes, some old dudes actually did this.