My expectations for Tag, a movie based on a true story about a group of childhood friends playing a decades-long game of tag, were very low. On the surface, Tag is a rowdy comedy about men hell bent on humiliating and dominating one another. However, this movie is much more sentimental than I anticipated. At its core, Tag is about the importance of friendship and how holding onto a piece of your adolescence can help preserve the past and re-strengthen a bond.
Every year during the month of May, Hoagie (Ed Helms), Bob (Jon Hamm), Chilli (Jake Johnson), Sable (Hannibal Buress), and Jerry (Jeremy Renner) willingly participate in the most intense game of cross-country tag. Nothing is off limits – not even life-changing moments like the birth of a child or the death of a parent. Of the five friends, only one – Jerry – has never been it. However, the friends find out that Jerry is retiring from tag at the end of this season. Unwilling to let Jerry settle into old age with a perfect record, Hoagie, Bob, Chilli, and Sable crash Jerry’s wedding in a last ditch effort to prevail.
What I liked the most about this movie was the blend of slapstick comedy and action. My favorite scene happens midway through the movie when the four friends corner Jerry at his reception venue. It doesn’t take Jerry long to realize he’s outnumbered. Using spy-like skills, he quickly outwits them all. The director, Jeff Tomsic, uses a blend of voiceover, slow motion, and comedic queues to move these memorable scenes along at a steady pace. It helps that the characters are expertly cast. Renner, who starred in the fledgling Bourne spinoff, is perfect in the role of Jerry. He’s equal parts sly, charismatic, and fierce. That said, Jake Johnson’s Chilli is the true standout. Similar to his character on New Girl, Johnson’s character is stalled in life – no relationship, no job, and no clue on how to move forward. However, he’s the most the realistic of all the characters – and funniest. Chilli’s peak was during high school and he longs to rekindle an adolescent romance with Cheryl (Rashida Jones) and get a life do-over.
Towards the end, Tag takes on a much more serious tone. One that I was not anticipating, and to be honest, put a damper on the good time I was having. I won’t reveal what happens as it would spoil the last 20 minutes or so of the movie, but I will say that it helps put into perspective what the movie is really about. As you mature into adulthood and take on new responsibilities and experience successes and failures, having those around you to ground you is extremely important, for they remind you to never stop enjoying life.