Tag is a movie based on an article in the Wall Street Journal about a group of ten friends, now in their fifties, who spend the month of May every year playing Tag – regardless of where they are or how old they get. The game has functioned as a unifier for their friendship, keeping them in each other’s lives, no matter the distance between them.
The movie version shrinks the group down to five members: Hogan Malloy, Bob Callahan, Randy Cilliano, Kevin Sable, and Jerry Pierce. The Story starts with Hogan, who gets a job with Bob’s company as a janitor so that he can get close enough to tag him, interrupting an interview Bob is giving to a Wall Street Journal reporter, Rebecca Crosby. Once Callahan is ‘it’, they head to get Randy. Rebecca insists on coming with them, realizing the child’s game they are playing as adults is a much better story than the story she was originally planning on writing.
Together, Bob and Hogan (with the assistance of Hogan’s wife Anna) get “Chilli” and he becomes it. The three go to get Sable, tagging him so that he is it. United, the four friends head back to their childhood home to get Jerry, who has never been ‘it’ for the last thirty years. Hogan tells the others they will have to work together to tag Jerry who is thinking of retiring undefeated and that his wedding will be the perfect opportunity.
Jerry has, of course, realized that they would be coming for him, prepped his bride-to-be for the occasion and set a plan in motion to ensure he will never be tagged. They set up an addendum to their rules (yes, there are rules) to ensure that they will not ‘ruin’ the wedding, but are allowed to attempt to get Jerry in the time before the wedding. Jerry also puts plans in place to confuse and misdirect the group to maintain his tagless streak. Hijinks ensue.
Directed by Jeff Tomsic, who has directed mostly comedy specials and TV shows to date, the movie is definitely funny, but also surprisingly touching and genuine in parts. This game really does keep this group of friends together through the years and they do realize how special that is. The tag sequences are directed like action movie sequences which really heightens the hilarity. There are some plot points that are brought up and never appear again, or never follow through, but not enough to be distracting. For a movie that originally was going to feature Will Ferrell and Jack Black, the cast that is in the movie is fantastic.
- Ed Helms plays Hogan ‘Hoagie’ Malloy and serves as the heart and soul of the group. He’s the one pulling them together, and at the end of the movie, reveals why this year’s game is so important to him. He’s perfect in this role that can vary from completely zany to genuine very quickly – something right in Helms’s wheelhouse.
- Jon Hamm plays Bob Callahan, who is very arrogant and confident, something very much in Hamm’s wheelhouse. Bob is full of himself, but does realize how important his friends are.
- Jake Johnson plays Randy ‘Chilli’ Cilliano, a stoner who has gotten divorced and lives with his father, randomly played by Brian Dennehy for apparently no reason whatsoever as he never shows up again. Chilli is the most annoying of the friends to me, but he does add to the comedy.
- Hannibal Buress brings his trademark dry hilarity to Kevin Sable, committed to his friends and the game. He has some really funny one-liners and ridiculous action sequences.
- Jeremy Renner plays Jerry Pierce, and Renner really excels at this type of comedy - playing the intimidating ‘straight man’ surrounded by others who can take the comedy a little more broad. He gets to use his action skills in the tag sequences, so much so that he managed to break both arms while shooting a stunt, and then returned 2 hours later to continue shooting.
- Annabelle Wallis plays the reporter Rebecca Crosby who gets sucked into the story and ends up really caught up in the ability that these men have to stay connected through this game. I do appreciate that they did not end up forcing her character into a romantic entanglement with any of the characters.
- Isla Fisher plays Anna Malloy, Hogan’s wife who is very competitive in terms of the game, willing to do almost anything to help her husband win or advance his strategies.
- Nora Dunn plays Hogan’s mother, and she has a very weird sub-plot where she flirts with Chilli. It was unnecessary and never paid off, which I suppose I am grateful for.
- Steve Berg plays Lou Seibert, a childhood friend of the group who wants to be included in the game, but has to make do with helping out with information.
- Leslie Bibb plays Susan Rollins – Jerry’s fiancée, who is aware of the game, and wants to ensure that it will not interfere with her wedding.
- Rashida Jones plays a childhood crush of both Bob and Chilli who Jerry calls and invites to the wedding for the express reason of throwing off Bob and Chilli – which is very successful.
Overall, the movie is hilarious, which I was expecting, but it also has some really touching moments, which I was not expecting. The best part is getting to see some footage of the real guys playing the game over the end credits, along with the cast singing Crash Test Dummies MMMMM song – for no reason. The movie is rated R, for language – which I think could have been cleaned up for a PG13 rating, there’s not much else in it aside from a lot of “dude-bro” humor – which can get gross and tiresome. Slight spoiler alert here - there is one thing I really did not like, and that was Susan faking a medical condition to get Jerry out of a spot with the guys. That was a step too far in my opinion, and could have been achieved with some other type of plotting. It wasn’t enough to sour me on the whole movie, but I really did not like that scene. She does get called out by the other characters for taking it too far, so the movie thinks it excuses itself that way. Still, the movie is really entertaining, check it out – I think you’ll enjoy it.
7 out of 10 – one of the best comedies I have seen this year, just in front of Game Night.