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Film Review: Surprising Friendship Message Shines Through the Pratfalls and Frat Jokes in “Tag”

Written by: Patrick Howard | June 14th, 2018

Film poster: “Tag”

Tag (Jeff Tomsic, 2018) 3½ out of 4 stars.

Tag is based on a real-life game of tag played by close friends for 23 years. Director Jeff Tomsic and his troupe of able-bodied comedians take this seemingly unbelievable story and craft a touching tale of longtime friendships.

Every year in the month of May, Hoagie (Ed Helms) and his close friends, played by Jake Johnson, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, and Hannibal Buress, take time off from their humdrum lives to play the same game of tag they played when they were kids. Hoagie tries convincing his friends, and in part himself, that this year will be the year they finally tag their friend Jerry, played by Renner, the reigning champion. Hoagie’s friends reluctantly change their minds when he tells them Jerry will be getting married and the wedding will be the perfect event to corner him and finally tag him.

Tag is a comedy that rises above its expected but still-funny low-brow humor and instead promotes the heartwarming bond between these five friends. The interpersonal drama between the main characters, and the banter that follows, is never mean-spirited to the point of a disconnect with the audience but sarcastic enough to build a believable rapport among these men.

The camerawork and editing are wildly creative and energetic. The tag sequences become more outlandish and incredibly entertaining as these friends’ dedication to beat the greatest tag player of all time becomes downright volatile. The high-octane buffoonery and character drama aren’t distractingly broken into identifiable sections. They work together as a sort of close-knit relationship in the story.

Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm in TAG ©Warner Bros.

Sadly this relationship hits a sizeable roadblock in the third act when a twist in the film’s story occurs. The twist isn’t the issue; rather, it’s the execution. Screenwriters Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen set up a suitable subplot for Jeremy Renner’s character which could’ve added another layer to his character but instead is utilized in a poorly handled red-herring ruse.

It feels like it’s been many years coming, but Tag is a frat comedy with an actual soul. Aside from a couple overly long comedy routines, Ed Helms and the rest of the cast are not just vehicles for easy jokes. These are people we could possibly know in our own lives. I promise you that after watching Tag, you’ll want to reconnect with your childhood friends.  

Annabelle Wallis, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Ed Helms, Isla Fisher and Hannibal Buress in TAG ©Warner Bros.

Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.

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