Friday, June 15, 2018

Tag - Review

The concept of a group of grown men playing a game of tag for thirty years sounds like something out of a film. But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and Tag just happens to turn that idea into a feature length film. Fortunately, they’ve assembled a solid cast to bring this story to life, even if the premise doesn’t seem to be enough to fill a full film. A fictionalized version of this unbelievable tale should be a fun time if nothing else, emphasis on should.

One month every year, five highly competitive friends hit the ground running for a no-holds-barred game of tag -- risking their necks, their jobs and their relationships to take one another down. This time, the game coincides with the wedding of the only undefeated player. What should be an easy target soon becomes an all-out war as he knows they're coming to get him.

From the initial announcement of the film, stretching a story such as this one into a feature length film never seemed like a great idea. While the story is an interesting one, it hardly contains enough substance to carry 100 minutes on its own. Everything revolves around tagging the singular friend who has never been “it”, a plot that seems open to plenty of comedic setting or scenarios, and yet, most of the time, the film falls completely flat. Tag is supposed to be a comedy, but when the script is lost in numerous uninteresting subplots and exaggerated, over-the-top behavior, anything remotely funny is lost too. 

If there is to be some saving grace amidst the various elements of the film, it’s likely to be the performances, again emphasis on if. Ed Helms is fine as a comedic actor, though usually better in support rather than seemingly leading the charge. As Hogan, the friend organizing this entire plan to tag their elusive friend Jerry, Helms does what he can with very limited material, just not enough to truly shine. In fact, the only actor that does is Hannibal Buress. He gets the most laughs by far despite being provided with little dialogue or jokes that actually work, relying on his comedic timing and delivery above all else. And then there’s Isla Fisher as Hogan’s wife, Anna. While the character is extremely aggressive and unbelievably intense, Fisher is clearly having fun playing the character. With a film that is inherently over-the-top, Fisher’s character fits in well, however grating it can be for the audience at times. 

Unfortunately, Tag takes what should be a fun, breezy comedy with themes of friendship layered underneath, an idea it beats the audience over the head with, turns out to be a cartoonish, largely unfunny, and scattered mess. Most of the attempted comedy stems from either pulverizing the group of friends or some strange dark place, including an entire scene debating the merits of waterboarding someone for information played for comedic purposes. What director Jeff Tomsic delivers here is not a light-hearted romp about a child’s game that keeps a group of friends close, no that would be far too close to reality. Instead, Tomsic makes a film that’s largely shallow and sort of mean-spirited as it meanders along to an emotional conclusion that doesn’t remotely feel earned.

Overall, Tag is not nearly the film it could’ve, or probably should’ve, been. There is a reason that the film is inspired by a true story rather than based on one, as the end result twists and stretches a concept into something that feels wrong in a lot of ways, and unfunny in a lot of others. Outside of a couple of chuckles provided by the actor’s abilities more than the film itself, Tag is a film that accomplishes very little of what it set out to do, leaving the audience as the real loser here. 

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