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Review: ‘Tag’ is Surprisingly True and Surprisingly Entertaining

June 14, 2018Ben MK

Of all the movies to be based on a true story, Tag is the one you would least expect. After all, it's about a group of friends who have been playing the same game of tag for 30 years — how could it possibly be anything close to reality?

The year is 1983, and Hoagie, Bob, Chilli, Sable and Jerry are five grade schoolers who have one thing in common — they love playing tag. So they keep playing it, all throughout high school, then college. Fast forward to the present day, and some of them have become veterinarians or the CEOs of Fortune 800 companies, while others are divorced and find comfort in toking up with their dads, or have trust issues for which they have to see a psychiatrist about. But if there's one thing that hasn't changed, it's that they still enjoy playing tag — every year, for the entire month of May — albeit the game has definitely gotten more elaborate.

When Hoagie (Ed Helms) goes to the trouble of getting a job as a janitor at Bob's (Jon Hamm) company, we get a taste of just how far these guys will go. Incognito in his fake mustache and wig, Hoagie waits patiently for Bob to enter his meeting with Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis), before making his move. And although Bob tries to escape the conference room by attempting to shatter the glass window with an office chair (an improvised tactic that hilariously backfires), he can't deny the fact that Hoagie outsmarted him.

It's then that Hoagie reveals the reason for the elaborate ruse. You see, their friend Jerry (Jeremy Renner) is planning to quit the game for good at the end of this season, and since Jerry holds a perfect record — having never been tagged — this will be the group's very last chance to finally give him his comeuppance. Flabbergasted by the mere fact that these grown men are so invested in playing a children's game, Rebecca senses a human interest story to be found here and decides to, well, tag along. And soon the three of them are headed to round up the other two members of the crew, Chilli (Jake Johnson) and Sable (Hannibal Buress).

With only three days left in May, the plan is deceptively simple: catch Jerry off-guard at his wedding to girlfriend Susan (Leslie Bibb), thereby ending his winning — or rather, not losing — streak. But what they don't realize is that Jerry is much more devious, stealthy and downright slippery than any of them ever imagined, sort of like Spider-Man, Batman and Daredevil all rolled into one. In essence, he's like the Pokémon you can never catch. And if they're serious about pulling this off, they're going to have to get more creative than they ever have before.

Suffice to say, director Jeff Tomsic and screenwriters Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen work wonders with the premise. Tag could have easily wound up a pretty generic action-comedy, with flat characters and a paper-thin plot. But instead, we get a film that actually has some heart, while still managing to keep viewers entertained with the increasingly over-the-top shenanigans that these pals are willing to get up to. Throw in a scene-stealing performance from Isla Fisher as Hoagie's overzealous wife, who can be more intense about the game than he is, and Rashida Jones as an old flame of both Bob's and Chilli's, whose reappearance is the cause of some friction between the two, and it's safe to say that the cast is one of the best things about the movie.

As for Tag being based on true events, make sure to stick around for the end credits for some home video of the real-life friends playing tag, as well as a clipping of the Wall Street Journal article — "It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being 'It'" — that inspired the film. Because while the footage shows how much the filmmakers have embellished the story, you'd be amazed at just how much of it actually happened.

Tag releases June 15th, 2018 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language throughout, crude sexual content, drug use and brief nudity. Its runtime is 1 hr. 40 min.

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