tagThe first thing you see when Tag starts is a bold note insisting that what you are about to watch is based on true events. Knowing the rough idea of the movie from the trailer, I assumed that I was going to think quite uncharitably of these men-children who have spent the last thirty years refusing to grow up.

For those unfamiliar with the trailer, or the WSJ article behind it, the story is about a group of five grown men who have been playing the same game of Tag for the last thirty years, since they were children. The logistics of this are pretty impractical so the rules are simplified so that the game only runs for the month of May with whoever is It at midnight on June 1 is, oh I dunno, whoever that is has the jobby touch for a year.

Ed Helms plays Hoagie and when we first see him, he’s applying for a janitorial job in a fancy insurance company despite being hugely over-qualified. He gets the job and then we next see him in disguise outside the office of CEO Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm) who is being interviewed by WSJ journalist Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis). I think we’re supposed to think Hoagie is going to assassinate Bob but nope, he Tags him and now Bob is It.

As ridiculous as this is, writers Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen up the ante and have Hoagie explain to Bob that Jerry is retiring from the game and has never been tagged. Ever. So Hoagie is rounding up the gang to head back to Jerry’s hometown for his wedding and finally lay a hand on the scoundrel. With Bob and an intrigued Rebecca in tow, we soon pick up stoner Chilli (Jake Johnson) and Kevin Sable (Hannibal Buress) and we see the unbelievable lengths these people will go to avoid being Tagged. Fire extinguisher to the chest, f’rinstance. Multiple punches to ass cheeks.

In his directorial debut, Jeff Tomsic does a pretty great job of moving things along with a script that restricts the characters within their particular quirks, but distributes quirky lines through them all to keep them all interesting, particularly Sable. Plus, Isla Fisher as Hoagie’s borderline psychotic wife, is an incredible if somewhat furious package. There’s a side-story with a hottie from school who is a potential love interest for a couple of members in the gang that doesn’t go anywhere — certainly nowhere interesting — but other than that, the story is pretty lean.

Is it funny, then? Well, I chuckled a few times. I was laughing silently on the inside on a few more occasions. It was fun. I found the 100 minute running time passed smoothly enough, but it was a movie that for long spells I felt I was more consciously observing from a position of curiosity rather than out and out enjoyment. For example, I spent a lot of time wondering about the fun of Jerry never being tagged, as it meant as a consequence he also had never been the tagger, missing out on a half of the game. He had never been It.

All that said, I came out feeling more positive about the participants than I did going in. Particularly in the final act, the movie develops a bit of a heart and the closing sequence with footage of the actual men who participated in this in real life, got me in the feels a wee bit, and almost coaxed a wee tear to this jaded eye.

 

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