Apologies for the lack of posts recently but quite frankly there has been absolutely nothing going on film-wise in the last few weeks. Thanks in no small part to the arrival of the World Cup, which causes studios to delay their films here in the U.K for at least a month. But never fear things are slowly picking up and I’ll be updating this blog with my thoughts on Ocean’s Eight, Sicario 2 and Whitney this coming week, first up though is Tag, which I’ll warn you now is very very not good…
The old adage says “If a tree falls down in the woods and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Depending on your answer I’d like to throw in the movie equivalent, “If a comedy film doesn’t make you laugh, can it really be called a comedy?” Using this idea I am completely stumped then as to what genre we can call Tag. Billed as a ‘hilarious’ comedy about true events, it barely manages to construct a single comedy set-piece to write home about. Based on The New York Post’s story around a group of best friends who have been playing the same game of Tag (or It for us Brits) for 30 years. Now on the surface this may appear to be a concept rife for filmic fun, alas writers Mark Steilen and Rob McKittrick fail to grasp any notion of the term comedy or even fun.
The bedrock of the film rests on this gang of best friends meeting up to finally tag the one member who has never been caught. Jeremy Renner’s Jerry, a man gifted with supernatural instincts and almost Machiavellian methods of taking down the other guys. Renner has great fun sending up his action movie credentials, and the only real fun moments are saved for his slow motion Jason Bourne alike takedowns, whereby he analyses the entire room for nimble ways to take them out. It appears Jerry’s time as champion could be at its end as the gang find out he is to be wed, thereby giving them an ample window to know exactly where he is going to be. In terms of plot that is about all you get amidst this 110 min ‘comedy’, Tag failing to find any real believable tension or emotional connection amongst the pratfalls and frequent out-of-place sex jokes.
You would hope that at least some measure of fun could be found as part of the ensemble, and the charisma of the performers just about carries it. Led by Ed Helms playing his usual tightly wound control freak, albeit with a soupcon of mania that arises in a few smile inducing moments. New Girl’s Jake Johnson is flat as the token “crazy” person of the group, doing drugs and cussing like he’s such a rebel despite hitting the same beats as pretty much every comedy wildcard character has in the last 10 years (think Zach Galifanakis in The Hangover but with no personality). Jon Hamm continues to use that Mad Men dry delivery as the relatively straight man of the group, reacting with increasing exasperation at the events around him to only workmanlike effect. It is such a shame Hamm has still not found the truly right vehicle to deliver on the acting prowess he so demonstrated in that landmark show. Best of the bunch is most certainly Hannibal Buress as Sable. The film makes zero attempt at giving him anything meaningful to do (even after his film introduction nicely sets up deeper psychological issues yet never mentions them again) but adept at dry tangential observations that, if better scripted, may have been hilarious.
The females of the group fare little better, Isla Fisher using her intensely manic energy that so astounded in the decade old Wedding Crashers except this time it’s her drive to win the game rather than any kinky sexual shenanigans. She is fun but one note. Worse still is Annabelle Wallis (The Mummy) playing the New York Post reporter who broke the original story, inexplicably joining these complete strangers to ‘document’ their tale and somehow managing to get herself invited into every facet of these peoples lives with barely any questioning. Tag swings about wildly trying to come up with any meaningful emotional connection to these people, and therein lies its biggest flaw you do not at any point believe this group are the best of friends. They certainly tell you enough times, and occasional flashes of teasing banter gives you hope but there is never that moment to truly sell you on the camaraderie these people should share. You get more of a sense of friendship from the real life footage of the actual group over the end credits than you do in the preceding 2 hrs.
The idea behind Tag is more the foundation for a great anecdote or short story, not a feature length Hollywood comedy. Director Jeff Tomsic (erm nothing you would have heard of) is adept at keeping things moving at a brisk pace and a few of the Tag set-pieces are nicely over the top, especially when paired with Renner being a badass. Yet the laughs and the heart just fail to materialise, even with arm-stretched attempts to be bold with them. A dark moment centring on miscarriage wants to be coffee black funny but is instead only awkward. And let’s not get started on the last minute leap to be emotionally tragic but one which is left staggeringly hanging in favour of some slow motion juvenile tagging. It is the sort of film that almost ironically leaves you feeling like you’ve just been tagged….with the regret of having played in the first place.
Verdict: A solid cast and a few nicely constructed action moments are not enough to save a film sorely lacking in laughs or childish abandon. A story that should have stayed on the page.