An overlooked comedy with a surprising message
(M) Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Jeremy Renner, Isla Fisher, Hannibal Burress, Rashida Jones
Directed by Jeff Tomsic
One film that arguably flew under the radar in 2018 was Tag. Released between The Incredibles 2 and Game Night, this surprisingly poignant action-comedy explores the message, “we don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”
Tag establishes this message early on in the film’s dialogue. Based on a true story, it involves a group of friends who have been playing the same game of tag since their school years. Over more than twenty years, Jerry one of the group’s members has avoided being tagged. With his wedding set to take place, Jerry intends to retire from the game after his nuptials. And so, the friends conspire to converge on their hometown of Spokaine, Washington, and finally tag him. Jerry, however, proves he will do anything in order to retire with his streak intact.
Tag’s impressive ensemble cast deliver all of this with performances that are impressive, but well within the established wheelhouses of all involved. The Hangover’s Ed Helms stars as Hogan Malloy, the group member who is perhaps most invested in seeing the game continue. Mad Men’s Jon Hamm plays successful businessman Bob Callaghan, who is interviewed about the game by the Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Crosby (Annabelle Wallis). Jake Johnson stars as Randy “Chilli” Cilliano, a somewhat unhinged stoner who often comes up with the group’s worst ideas. Jeremy Renner’s portrayal of the long-running champion is akin to much of his action hero work, and yet manages to be more fun than his portrayal of The Avengers’ Hawkeye (Marvel’s writers should watch this film and take some notes on how Renner might better portray that character). Australia’s Isla Fisher plays Anna, a somewhat maniacal group member who is not officially part of the game but manages to emotionally invest in its outcome anyway. Hannibal Buress brings his usual dry wit to the role of the group’s idiot savant, Sable.
Again, none of these castings are against each actor’s firmly established ‘type’ but each actor delivers in ways that are impressive. One key example is certain cast members’ stunt work. Jeremy Renner was injured during filming and yet managed to re-do the stunt in question before going to hospital.
Tonally, Tag is similar in some regards to the likes of Game Night, which released shortly after it came out. While Insights’ recommendation comes with the caveat that the film has some offensive humour and language, it is a surprisingly moving piece, with a message to impart about the importance of fun and maintaining lifelong friendships.
Tag is rated M and is now available on Blu Ray, DVD, and digital release.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor