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Movie Review: “Tag”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Tag

Theatrical Release: 6/15/2018

Theatrical Release: 6/15/2018

Synopsis

Every May for the past thirty years, a small group of friends have been playing the same game of tag. During May, the game is on! Players can come out of nowhere and can tag each other at any time. Whoever is “it” at 12:00am on June 1st has to live with the shame of being “it” for the next eleven months. The plans get very ellaborate and the stakes get high, but the game has kept this group of friends together over the past few decades. It is a fun game between friends, but Jerry (Jeremy Renner) has never been tagged since the game started.

Jerry has had a major target on his back for the past thirty years. The rest of the group tries to work together to get Jerry year in and year out, but they have never succeeded. However, this year, the stakes will be higher than they have ever been. Jerry is getting married on May 31st and plans on retiring from the game at the end of the season. Hoagie (Ed Helms), Chilli (Jake Johnson), Callahan (Jon Hamm), and Sable (Hannibal Buress) must work together and find a way to tag Jerry or they will have live with the shame of having never been able to beat him.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe Cons

Tag (+8pts)

The Reporter (-3pts)

The Friendship (+6pts)

Cheryl (-3pts)

Isla Fischer (+4pts)

The Climax (-5pts)

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Pro: Tag (+8pts)

This movie has such a fun premise. It is really dumb in the best way and was made even better by how well the cast sold it. The extreme lengths that all of these characters were willing to go to was something that the filmmakers clearly loved playing around with and was something that audiences will really enjoy. This, mixed with the desperation of trying to tag Jerry, and the fear of being it, made for an on-screen comedic joyride.

The scenes where the group tries to tag Jerry are hilarious. He is clearly so much better than any of the other guys and he is clearly so much better than anyone in the history of the game. It is really over-the-top, but it is really fun. This movie is a gimmick, but will have you laughing from start to finish over the absurdity of this game and the characters playing it.

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Con: The Reporter (-3pts)

I am honestly still a bit confused as to why the filmmakers put this character in the story. This movie was based on a true story, so maybe the reporter was there in the real-life order of events, but in a cinematic interpretation, the filmmakers do not have to follow the actual events exactly. This reporter is writing an article about Callahan (Jon Hamm), and when she finds out about the game, she decides to “tag“ along (see what I did there?).

Why was she there? This character did not have anything better that she could be doing with her life? These questions will most likely distract audiences, as it did with me. The presence of the character felt really random and out of place. The character’s presence did not add anything to the movie and it took away from screentime that could have been spent on other characters.

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Pro: The Friendship (+6pts)

One thing I did not expect to see, was a strong, well-developed friendship. None of these characters, individually, got much focus, but (as a whole) the group got plenty. This is an ensemble cast and there were no weak links. They played off each other well and brought a sincere friendship to the screen.

Audiences will have a real sense of how strong their friendship is and will see themselves (and their friends) in these characters. This cast works really well together and their interactions will remind audiences of their high school and college friendships. Their characters will connect with audiences in a way that will have them believing in the juvenile game and their juvenile behavior. As a result, it was a lot of fun to see these ridiculous characters playing this absurd game.

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Con: Cheryl (-3pts)

Cheryl (Rashida Jones) was the generic, wrench character of the movie. A wrench character is what I call a character whose presence is meant to distract other characters and screw up “the plan”. Wrench characters are usually ones that behave in a self-destructive way that jeopardizes their own group‘s plan because they do not feel “appreciated”, but wrench characters are sometimes separate from the group.

Cheryl is a girl that both Chilli and Callahan had a sort of romantic relationship when they were kids. There has always been a bit of a competitive rivalry between the two guys over this girl. The plot is running smoothly, the main characters are all on the same page, and are working together. That is when Cheryl shows up and alters the focus for Chilli and Callahan (throwing a wrench into the group’s plan). I understand all of this from the characters’ perspectives and it makes sense for Jerry to have invited Cheryl to the wedding (to intentionally distract Chilli and Callahan), but I thought Cheryl’s presence did more harm than good. It messed with the film’s pacing and distracted the audience from the movie’s unique premise.

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Pro: Isla Fischer (+4pts)

In the middle of a pretty stacked, talented, comedic cast, Isla Fischer was (arguably) the comedic standout. It was like she was the comedic relief of a comedy movie. She is the wife of Hoagie and is really into the game, though she is not allowed to play because she is not ”one of the guys“. As a result, she is really intense in her support of Hoagie and will have audiences laughing with almost every line that comes out of her mouth.

She is profane and is dying to be able to play the game, so will stop at nothing when she can participate in helping her husband. She will dive at people, and get knocked down, but will be enjoying every second of it. What was so great about this character was that she was hilarious, but by being so ridiculously over-the-top, it made the guys and their ridiculous game seem normal and believable in comparison. Isla Fischer was hilarious in this role and was one of the better parts of the movie.

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Con: The Climax (-5pts)

I felt that the filmmakers had a tough time writing a climax for a plot that centers around a never ending game. The climax needed to feel satisfying to the audience while also leaving the story open for the game to continue. Regardless of whether or not there is a sequel, this group of friends will not stop playing tag, so this movie had to be somewhat open-ended. Rather than just have a climactic attempt at tagging Jerry and end the movie at the end of the season, the filmmakers went for a dramatic end that did not fit the silly tone of the rest of the movie.

The whole movie has a very silly tone to go with the absurd premise. This worked really well but, unfortunately, the filmmakers went with a dramatic conclusion. This is not the kind of conclusion that audiences will be looking for. It interrupts the pacing of the movie, gets too serious for a comedy of this style, and will end up feeling anti-climactic. The filmmakers had a gem with this premise and they set it up nicely, but definitely dropped the ball with the conclusion.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B- (82pts)

The best thing going for this movie was its premise. The thought of a group of grown men playing tag is absolutely absurd and this movie really plays with that absurdity. Jeremy Renner’s Character has never been tagged in the thirty years that they have played this game. His character is very exaggerated but it becomes a lot of fun to see the rest of the group trying to work together to get him. The friendship between the main characters felt sincere and was very entertaining, as it reminds audiences of our friends from high school and college. It is a silly concept, but it works (for the most part).

The climax takes an unexpected dramatic turn that was meant to give the film a solid conclusion. Unfortunately, it feels anti-climactic and out-of-place. There a couple of unnecessary female characters (with Cheryl and the reporter), but Isla Fischer is easily one of the funniest parts of the movie. It is far from perfect, but the fun premise and strong juvenile friendship makes Tag a fun time at the movies.