Tag - 2018
Director(s): Jeff Tomsic
Writer(s): Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen (screenplay) / Russell Adams (Wall Street Journal article)
Cinematography by: Larry Blanford
Editor(s): Josh Crockett
Cast: Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress. Jeremy Renner, Isla Fisher and Rashida Jones
Synopsis: A small group of former classmates organize an elaborate, annual game of tag that requires some to travel all over the country (IMDB).
A group of 10 men have been playing an extreme, month-long game of tag for the past 23 years. That is the elevator pitch to the news article that inspired this movie. While the movie takes liberties with the source material - they move the month and the shrink the group from 10 to 5 - they wanted to capture the essence of the inspiration of this over-the-top kid’s game played by grown men: friendship. With a crazy premise, a great cast and great trailer, I was really looking forward to this movie. Walking out of the screening I was underwhelmed by the comedy aspect, but impressed by the action sequences. Let’s talk about it.
With such a talented and proven cast, first time director Jeff Tomisc (known for directing shorts and comedy specials) was the biggest question mark in my eyes coming in to the movie. But to my surprise, his eye for action is where he shined. What I liked about almost all the action sequences - and when I say action sequences I mean all the moments they play tag - is that they are shot as homages to multiple action movies, but with the running absurdity that the outcome is a tag. My favorite homage is the sequence where Ed Helms is chasing Jake Johnson through an apartment complex – very reminiscent of the chase sequence on Neo in the first Matrix movie. The shots looked cinematic and with purpose and, like this year’s Game Night, it felt like a movie and not an improvised sketch that cameras just happened to capture.
My biggest issue was the script and the pacing of the movie. First, the script. While it has the creative tag/action sequences, it failed to deliver on the genre its claiming to be: comedy. I don’t know if I even actually laughed during the entire runtime, and it’s due to the preserved forceful nature of the circumstances. All the set-ups and the interactions between the “friends” felt unnatural and unbelievable, even though they were inspired by real events. You had characters screaming lines, because that’s comedy, you had taking things way too seriously, because that’s comedy, and you had actors saying over-the-top cruel things, because that comedy, all of them leading to me just staring at the screen, seeing the cogs of a machine that’s not running as smoothly as they want it too.
As for the pacing, the movie is 2 hours long, and you feel the 2 hours towards the end of the movie. I went to an early screening and it was an empty theater and I was tempted to check my phone on multiple occasions. The movie has a clunky set-up to the cast of friends, jumping from one friend to another, with Hannibal Buress’s introduction being the cringiest of them all, and it has a clunky landing thanks to a horrible joke that goes a bit too far. For one, the joke is not funny at all, and secondly, it’s in poor taste considering it’s an event that many women go through and suffer deep depression from (trying to be as vague as possible). The movie, both in runtime and in taste, would’ve benefited from this entire thing being cut out.
Quick note: the acting is fine all around, but I didn’t buy them as friends partly due to the lacking chemistry and the forced nature of the situations they are placed in.
Tag is an action comedy that forgets it’s a comedy. While it’s not a bad movie - I would dare say I was entertained - it does feel overly long, leading to an experience you want to end. And when you are looking at the clock of your phone asking yourself “how long does this movie have left?” did you really have a good time? The action sequences are fun and well shot, making it worth a watch whenever it hits your streaming service. Grown men playing tag is why I love movies.
Tag is currently playing in theaters. Not it.
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