Another mechanical Hollywood farce featuring grown men behaving disgracefully, but this one is inspired by true events, sort of.



Touch-a, touch-a, touch-a, touch me: Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm


Don’t be fooled. The opening legend “inspired by a true story” is about as relevant as the credit for Jon Hamm’s chauffeur. The Lion King was inspired by Hamlet, but that failed to warrant an acknowledgement. Notwithstanding, for fans of The Hangover, this witless tribute to middle-aged American men behaving like children might appeal. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, "we don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing" (although, in the film, the quote is misattributed to Benjamin Franklin). And hence the raison d'être for this juvenile, cumbersome comedy.


The pastime in question is the eponymous, sophisticated game of ‘tag,’ in which one participant has to make physical contact with another player and say, “you’re it.” In the movie version of this epic pursuit, the contenders are a predictably diverse bunch (not the overweight white guys we see during the closing credits). There’s the square-jawed CEO of a multinational corporation (Jon Hamm), the bong-chugging divorcee loser (Jake Johnson), the athletic fitness guru over-achiever (Jeremy Renner channelling Jason Bourne), a doctor with a PhD (Ed Helms) and the token black friend (Hannibal Buress).


In the movie version, the game means so much to these men that they use each other’s seminal moments in life to gain one-upmanship: disrupting funerals, weddings and even childbirth in order to attain the upper hand. It helps that these morons appear to have no money problems, and are loyally supported by their womenfolk, because life is just a game, right? And so there’s all sorts of criminal damage to property, including the demolition of a stained-glass church window.


All this might have been bearable had there been a modicum of credibility, such as that injected into the recent black comedy Game Night (2018), which achieved an entertaining balance of humour, suspense and make-believe. But besides the hackneyed comic riffs, the banal sound effects and the lazy continuity, Tag is just offensive: not least when four of their number set out to waterboard an innocent bystander, sabotage an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and litter a churchyard with hundreds of carefully set mousetraps. They’re also a profoundly obnoxious bunch but with enough of an approximation in real life to make their antics deeply upsetting.


The only character with a note of redemption is the outsider, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who serves both as a conduit for the viewer and as female eye candy, played by the Oxford-born Annabelle Wallis. Even though the film flits all over the US, Wallis pops up at convenient intervals to provide the requisite astonishment for us, the audience. Eventually her story was written up for the newspaper, although the real writer was Russell Adams, who was not as good-looking. What the real guys got up to – including the funereal intrusion – makes for fascinating reading. It should also make a very funny documentary. 




Cast: Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Lil Rel Howery, Brian Dennehy, Nora Dunn, Steve Berg, Thomas Middleditch, Kurt Yue.


Dir Jeff Tomsic, Pro Todd Garner and Mark Steilen, Screenplay Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen, from a story by Mark Steilen, Ph Larry Blanford, Pro Des David Sandefur, Ed Josh Crockett, Music Germaine Franco, Costumes Denise Wingate.


New Line Cinema/Broken Road Productions-Warner Brothers

100 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 29 June 2018. Cert. 15.