Cinema Dispatch: Tag

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Tag and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Jeff Tomsic

I don’t know about you, but I really liked the trailer to this when it started to go around!  It was a clever enough premise to be sure, and there’s a really decent cast behind it; particularly Jeremy Renner who may have gotten screwed out of Infinity War but at least gets a nice juicy starring role here!  Does Benedict Cumberbatch get as much screen time in that movie as he’ll get here?  I sure as heck doubt it!!  In a year that’s certainly had its ups and downs as far as comedies (Blockers on the high end, Gringo on the low), will this be another standout to tip the year in to the GOOD side, or will this fail to live up to the expectations we got from such a good trailer?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the adventures of Hogan, bob, Randy, and Kevin (Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, and Hannibal Buress) who are four lifelong friends that have managed to stay close over the last thirty years by playing tag for the entire month of May with the man left as IT at the end of the month being saddled with shame for the rest of the year.  Oh, but it’s all in good fun, right!?  Well, there’s actually one more friend in the group named Jerry (Jeremy Renner) who’s NEVER been tagged in all the years they’ve played the game; to the point that it’s downright scary.  Dude has Sherlock Holmes powers where he can see everything go in slow motion, and he has the cat like reflexes of a superhero that might be popular but expendable enough that they won’t call him EVERY time the group assembles.  To make matters worse, it seems that Jerry plans on retiring at the end of this season and Hogan is more determined than ever to finally lay his hand upon his friend and confer the status of IT to him once and for all; breaking his streak and proving himself to be the best tag player of them all!  However, Jerry has thrown a clever little wrench into Hogan’s plans by putting his own wedding right at the end of the month which will hopefully deter the crew from their mad pursuit; at least long enough to not ruin the big day for his fiancée (Leslie Bibb) and make it THAT much easier for him to retain the title.  Will Hogan and his heroes (along with his wife played by Isla Fisher) manage to stop the reign of Jerry once and for all?  Just how far will they go to tag him, and how far will Jerry go to NOT be tagged?  If any of this is supposedly based on a true story, how are NONE of these people dead!?

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“THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!”

I hate to say it, but this is yet another movie that has a much better trailer than the final product.  More often than not this is due to a premise that works more as a gimmick than as a plot for a movie, and so in order to not wear audiences out on what they came to see (in this case, grown men trying to tag each other), it has to be EXPANDED UPON and give us reasons to care about the characters outside of their function in delivering the premise.  It’s an uphill battle to be sure, but this one barely gets a step on the side before completely gassing out as everything SURROUNDING the game is just dull and tedious with subplots that go absolutely nowhere and characters who reveal themselves to be genuinely terrible people.  It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt; and the ones taking the brunt of it are those who actually paid to see this.

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At least he got a doughnut for his trouble!

If you liked what you saw in the trailer, rest assured that about twenty percent of this movie IS indeed what you saw in that and it’s actually the best part of the movie.  The game of tag itself and the lengths that they all go to play it is interesting to watch and they get a few decent laughs out of the sheer absurdity of it all.  Jeremey Renner in particular who broke BOTH of his arms making this movie is the key to all of this as the best moments are his and his characters creativeness in avoiding being tagged which includes fake sets, a forest full of traps, and bullet time skills that would only make sense if this really was taking place in The Matrix.  Everyone else does fine in their desperate pursuit of Renner (Jake Johnson in particular gets some decent reaction shots), but really this is Hawkeye’s movie whenever he’s on screen and his was easily the best casting decision they could have made.  Unfortunately, that’s about it for what’s good about this movie and is probably why they barely touch on anything else in the trailer.

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“Thanos may have the Infinity Stones, but can he claim to have NEVER BEEN TAGGED!?  I DIDN’T THINK SO!!”

Okay, so it’s nice that they managed to nail the utter childish absurdity of grown men playing a game like this and taking it EXTRAORDINARILY seriously, but there’s only so much you can do with that before the idea becomes tedious and overdone, right?  Well… I’d say they could have done MORE with it here, but there’s no denying that SOMETHING had to fill in the gaps between bouts of frantic chasing, and on top of that it definitely helps if you CARE who it is that’s doing it in the first place.  Sadly, they fail pretty miserably on this front as none of the characters are all that likable or even that relatable when you get right down to it.  I mean the amount of time, money, and effort they go through for all this is funny at first, but it doesn’t take long for you to realize that this is a pretty serious obsession they have and it starts going down some pretty dark roads.  I won’t spoil everything that ends up happening here, but there’s a lot of property damage, breaking and entering, and downright rude behavior that they’re all responsible for committing just so they can play their ridiculous game.  They never suffer any consequences of course!  They pretty much kidnap at least one person and it’s never brought up again!  They destroy (or at least heavily damage) some VERY expensive equipment that’s owned by other people, but we never hear about it after they’ve moved on to the next thing.  It starts to get rather off-putting as we get closer and closer to the end, and I can’t imagine someone relating to these people in any sort of positive way which runs counter to the framing of the movie.  The whole movie is about NOSTALGIA which is baked into the premise and their motivations, but it’s hard to get swept up in the good feelings and warm familiarity when what they’re doing right now to preserve it is just so… destructive.  If you want to remember the good ol’ days and even want to play a game to celebrate them, then go for it!  Have a blast!  Just don’t be shoving people or breaking things in the process, otherwise you’re just being a total jerk.

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Because nothing’s more BAD ASS than crashing an AA meeting to play a children’s game with your bros!  At least if you’re still collecting Yu-Gi-Oh cards in your forties, you can play it quietly!

It gets even worse when they try to come up with subplots for the characters to go through which are completely useless and don’t come to any sort of satisfying conclusion.  Seriously, if someone can tell me why the BRILLIANT Rashida Jones was dragged into this, I’d either be in absolute shock or just assume they’re a liar because there’s NOTHING FOR HER TO DO HERE!  She’s only around for Jake Johnson and John Hamm to fight over, and as far as I can tell she doesn’t ACTUALLY resolve anything in the story.  At least they get a subplot though, as Hannibal Buress is pretty much just hanging out waiting to be a part of this movie which he never really does.  And yet, even worse than THAT is Annabelle Wallis as the reporter following this story because she’s clearly AROUND for the entire movie but she doesn’t do anything within it; to the point that it seems like they forget to include her in certain scenes and then just have her pop up whenever.  I like the idea that there’s an impartial third party observing the situation and trying to suss out the true story in this wacky adventure, but the movie isn’t told from that perspective and so she feels completely extraneous.  If the movie had been framed around her instead of the group of friends that would have been pretty interesting to see play out (big action scenes happening off screen and then recreated in follow up interviews) but we as the audience are constantly three or four steps ahead of her, and her impartial status means she can’t actually affect the plot in any meaningful way, so… why is she there?  The absolute worst one though has to be the SURPRISE TWIST at the end which I will not spoil here, but there’s literally zero build up to it throughout the movie and it feels like a cheap tactic to try and add meaning to this movie where there is clearly none to be found.

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I’ve heard of WORSE excuses to start drinking heavily…

Maybe this is the best we could reasonably expect from a movie with such a thin (if clever) premise, but if that was the case then they shouldn’t have even bothered in the first place.  I don’t recommend checking this out in the theater and I don’t even really recommend seeing it when it gets a home release.  The tag scenes with Jeremy Renner are good, but they really aren’t good enough to justify how dull and unpleasant the rest of the movie ends up being; especially in the second half.  There are much better comedies in theaters right now like Ocean’s 8, and we’ll be getting a home release of Blockers in the next few week.  You’re much better off checking those out if you haven’t already then making the trip to see this in theaters.  Heck, just go outside and play!  Kick the Can only it’s full of snakes, Hide and Seek with someone’s heart medication, Four Square TO THE DEATH…

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