When one hears of a group of adult men playing a 23-year long game of tag, one may intrinsically imagines an R-rated, raunchy comedy starring some of this decades most recognizable comedic faces acting like complete morons. While that is a valid assumption, the movie in question, Tag, also has a heart and is surprisingly inspired by a sympathetic true story of a lifelong group of friends hell-bent on continuing a childhood game that would give them an excuse to be around each other, even if just for one month a year. This story, which was originally captured by the Wall Street Journal’s Russell Adams, is uncharacteristically charming for its standard R-rated comedy packaging and is superbly complemented by its casts’ chemistry and comedic timing, dick jokes aside.
Coming from Jeff Tomsic, one of Comedy Centrals more trusted writer/producers, in his directorial debut, is a film that manages to capture the seemingly natural comedic ability of each of its capable stars. Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm, and Jeremy Renner are a group of men at the most emphatically boring point in an adult male’s life, but one childhood pact manages to pull them all out from their respective lives of simplicity and tedium, into a childish — yet sometimes dangerous — game of tag.
The game is the driving force for the characters friendships, but fortunately is not supplemented for character development, each character humanly having differing opinions of what is important to them in life. Hogan Malloy (Helms, “Father Figures”) is the persistent leader of the bunch and actually seems to have the most stability in his life with a fiery wife (Isla Fisher, “Keeping Up with the Joneses”) and a family potentially on the way. Bob Callahan (Hamm, “Baby Driver”) is a tightly regimented suit in the Wall Street world. Randy “Chilli” Cilliano (Johnson, “The Mummy”) gets by on smoking weed everyday with his dad and veering into the depressive moments that have seemingly ruined his life, like a recent divorce. Kevin Sable (a hysterical Hannibal Buress, “Blockers”), is even in a meeting with a therapist when the audience first sees him, expressing the instability of his relationships and his own hilarious insecurities.
To go along with kindred story of friendship and trust (admirably handled by writers Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen) is, of course, some debauchery that comes in the form of golf cart chases, several cases of breaking and entering, a wedding crashing, and even a few nut shots. But for those easily turned off by such themes, there is a hefty dose of clever action scenes gluing things together that are usually facilitated by Jerry Pierce (Renner, “Wind River”). Jerry, looking to bow out of the game once he is married to his fiancée Susan (Leslie Bibb, “Zookeeper”), is the only one of the group to manage to not be tagged in the entirety of the 23-year game and wants desperately to keep it that way. This mashup gives the film the perfect package for a modern comedy film: A cast with excellent comedic ability, chemistry between the players that legitimately makes the game seems as real as it actually is, and a story that is as authentic as it is hilarious.
For just another raunchy comedy, Tag actually goes above and beyond what its audience is asking for, favoring complex characters and unusual occurrences of empathy and pain instead of the genres usual rapid firing of off-handed dick jokes and physical gags. The film certainly isn’t without these integral elements of course, but it is all much more effective when implemented with a sense of awareness by its creators and raw charisma by its players. Overall, these elements done in the right way actually create a modern comedy worth seeing.