Looking for a light comedy? Tag isn't it
Starring Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress and Jake Johnson. Directed by Jeff Tomsic. Opens Friday at major theatres. 100 minutes. 14A
Looking for a light summer comedy? Chase down another movie.
Tag, “inspired” rather than “based” on a true story — never a propitious sign — strives gamely to strike a balance between gonzo comedy and a poignant tale about friendship. The result, falling somewhere in between, doesn’t quite rise to the level of lovable.
The premise is relatively straight forward: childhood friends have been playing tag throughout the month of May for 30 years, though one of them, Jerry, has never been successfully “tagged.” So Hogan, nicknamed “Hoagie,” ramps up the competition by telling the others that Jerry is planning to call it quits after one last game.
Jerry is also getting married on the last day of the month, giving the guys one last chance to “tag” him.
Throughout, we’re reminded a number of times as of a famous quote by George Bernard Shaw: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” It’s a wonderful sentiment and one we all should take to heart. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t quite match the sentiment.
It’s difficult to say what doesn’t mesh, although the screenplay by Mark Steilen and Rob McKittrick, is probably the main culprit, with dialogue that provokes groans rather than belly laughs. A scene involving the threat of waterboarding? Yep, still too soon.
Casting and direction are also rather problematic. Director Jeff Tomsic, who’s helming his first major feature film, has assembled an eclectic crew of actors but he really doesn’t draw the best performances from them.
Ed Helms as Hoagie is the ostensible everyman and centre of the group and Helms is a fine comic actor. But there just isn’t much in the material that allows him to shine. Isla Fisher as wife Anna is just too over the top in her enthusiasm for the game.
Jake Johnson as “Chili” is just plain stupid and annoying as the group stoner who says highly inappropriate things and why do we need an actor of Brian Dennehy’s stature for a brief scene as his wasted dad?
Hannibal Burgess gets the most laughs with dialogue that is both terse and cryptic. But Jon Hamm as Bob and Jeremy Renner as Jerry are two thespians with serious acting chops who just aren’t funny.
Annabelle Wallis plays a Wall Street Journal reporter who accompanies Bob along for the ride — the original story that “inspired” the film ran in that august publication — but it’s a device that adds little value to the story. Leslie Bibb plays Jerry’s fiancée with a relish that borders on bizarre and Rashida Jones plays Cheryl, a woman that Chili and Bob once contended for. Another unnecessary addition to the story that induces a shrug rather than a smile.
It’s meant to be good clean fun with an enduring lesson about friendship. But Tag, the movie, is rather like a game of tag, a lot of dodging, weaving and running around with no clear winner. In this case, it’s the audience that’s the loser.