Review – Friendship comedy ‘Tag’ finds tenderness amidst the action

Patrick Wilson is the main host of the weekly Popcorn Muncher Podcast and also writes as a regular guest contributor to The Popcorn Muncher.
 

Poster for 2018 comedy movie Tag

Genre: Comedy
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 29th June 2018
Runtime: 100 minutes
Director: Jeff Tomsic
Writer: Rob McKittrick, Mark Steilen
Starring: Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson, Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb, Annabelle Wallis, Rashida Jones
Synopsis: A group of friends reunite every year in order to continue the same game of tag they have been playing with each other for three decades, with one reigning supreme as the undefeated champion.

 

 

It’s easy to go into Tag expecting a run of the mill American comedy, with all the dick and fart jokes common to the territory. It’s not that I have a problem with a good dick or fart joke, but American comedies recently have relied far too heavily on improv comedy riffs mashed together into a movie rather than spending time telling a real story or writing jokes. The recent Ghostbusters reboot is a horrific version of this phenomenon. Tag stands out from its ilk by having a great comedy premise and a lot of heart, which is not something you usually expect.

The film stars Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner and a slate of other great comedy actors as a group of old friends who have been playing the same game of playground staple ‘Tag’ for 30 years. Every year, during the month of May, they meet up again in order to continue the game. Renner’s character, Jerry, has never been tagged in the entire history of the game and, with his imminent wedding leading to his retirement from the game, the other friends decide to band together in order to end his dominance.

Tag works effectively as a comedy action movie, without being a laugh riot every second. Outside of the go-to dick jokes – which are, of course, present and correct – a lot of the humour comes from the bonds of friendship between the cast members. The film comes off more as an indie comedy akin to something like Adventureland at times, which adds to the sweetness at the core of the idea of a group of friends staying close over the years through a children’s game.

Combined with this are the ludicrously over-cranked attempts to tag Jerry. Renner’s suave character is treated like a superhuman action hero and his scenes of dodging play out with an enjoyable internal monologue and so oddly resemble the fight scenes from the Sherlock Holmes movies directed by Guy Ritchie. It all works, though, because the rather casual comic tone and light atmosphere is matched with some ridiculous action scenes and, at times, real tenderness between the characters.

Forced sentimentality can hurt good comedies, such as in Kevin Smith‘s later work, which is desperate for an emotional hook, yet never works hard enough to get the audience to bite. In Tag, however, things get dark and things get sad but in the end, these are true friends that use the game to stay close and so the story really tugged at my heartstrings by the end.

I’d be remiss not to mention Isla Fisher, who is a real comic stand-out. While not involved in the game, she is the wife of Ed Helms’a character and frequently becomes far too intense in her attempts to tag Jerry. It’s a hilarious performance that is used sparingly enough to not tip into becoming grating.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

All in all, I enjoyed Tag, more so than I imagined I would. It almost feels like taking the friendship of a group like the characters in Edgar Wright’s The World’s End and letting them retain some of their innocence, even in times of trouble and strife. It won’t set the comedy world on fire by any means, but Tag is definitely worth your time.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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