Monday, 2 July 2018
I'm one of the lucky few. I'm still great friends with the lads I went to school with. We don't see each other very often but when we do it's like we only saw each other the day before. The last time we were all together was five years ago now and if we met up tomorrow there'd be no unease or awkward silences. It's a rare thing to have and it's why a new film called Tag resonated with me and why despite it's flaws I enjoyed it.
Once a year, during the month of June a group of 40+ year old men play a game of tag. It's a game that's been going on over 3 decades and they keep the tradition up to make sure they stay friends and stay in each other's lives. They go to extreme lengths to catch each other out and to keep the game fresh but this year is going to be an especially lively game seeing as one of them, Jerry, has decided he isn't going to play anymore. Jerry is also the only one of them that's never been tagged.....
This was an odd watch. As a paean to the odder aspects of male bonding it really works and it's always welcome to see male friendships shown with a bit of depth and not just bro hugs and insults. But as a comedy it totally fails to be funny. It tries hard and there's a couple of fun scenes in here but it just won't make you laugh. The actual moments of tag are clever in their planning but the way they're depicted will rot you after 5 minutes. Seeing well known comedy actors running away from each other in slow motion gets old after 30 seconds and after the 15th time you see it you'll start grumbling. It's mined for all it's worth and it hurts the film. The moments that do succeed work because they try something different. An Ozzy Osbourne scored chase in the woods that feels like a moment from a Predator film or a fight scene in a shopping centre involving a walking frame, woollen nunchuku and a dash of Danzig. These two scenes aren't enough to save the comedy side of the film though.
What does save it is the depiction of male friendship mentioned earlier. The chemistry shown onscreen feels real. There's history and a real weight to it which is probably because crazily it's all based on a real story (stick around for the closing credits to see real life footage. It feels right and gives the story a nice impetus. All of that is down to good work from a fine cast. Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm and Jake Jones work well together but the stand out is Jeremy Renner as Jerry. Renner is an actor I usually find about as interesting as a piece of styrofoam but his role here suits him to a tee. He's like a tag superhero compared to the rest and you can tell he's having fun in the part. Isla Fisher as Anna, wife of Hogan (Helms) is fun too. A scarily intense wannabe tag player who can't take part because the rules of the game were written up at an age when girls weren't important to boys. She's the only female character that gets any real bit of screentime though. One is an annoying shrew and the other only appears to create a bit of dramatic tension between the lads. This really is a boy's film.
One moment felt out of place for me though. A dark and mean spirited prank that will leave a rotten taste in the mouths of many. It doesn't feel at home here at all and seems like a calculatedly dark gag in a film full of heart. It's like it was added because someone needed the story to be a bit edgy. I genuinely wish it wasn't there because it may ruin the film for a lot of people. That odd decision aside this is a grand way to wile away a couple of hours. In a year of excellent adult comedies like Game Night and Blockers this doesn't embarrass itself. It's not half as funny as them but like them it has a heart and that's always welcome.