Tag is based on a true story written in a 2013 Wall Street Journal article about a group of guys who have been playing the same game of tag for nearly 30 years. During the entire month of May (February in the real story) the game is a total free for all, anything goes save for a few amendments such as no girls allowed. But this year, the objective is clear: tag never-been-tagged Jerry.
The story is cleverly told from the angle of Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis), who had intended to do a piece on mega-successful Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm), but is interrupted by Hogan (Ed Helms) who has devised an elaborate ruse to tag him in the middle of the interview. As the tag plays out in the office in front of her, Rebecca realizes this is the new angle for her piece and decides to follow them across the country to understand this crazy game and watch as it plays out. We're taken to tags in two more cities to pick up additional game players Chilli (Jake Johnson) and Sable (Hannibal Buress) in the attempt to finally tag Jerry (Jeremy Renner) at his wedding in their hometown in what's said to be his final year before retiring. Anna (Isla Fisher) is Hogan's uber-competitive wife, gets in on the fun as well as a spy and accomplice. She feels a little like her Wedding Crashers character Gloria... kooky and lovable. All the guys play their typecast very well, and I was impressed with Hamm and Renner's comedic chops as we haven't seen them in this genre as much as the others.
I've made the caveat before that I go into every movie with low expectations and the intent to be entertained and escape for a couple hours. It's important you have that mindset before seeing Tag. This film isn't going to win any awards, but it's an enjoyable experience and will make you laugh. Critics are probably not going to be super kind to this movie as there are some issues with it, particularly with the how-low-will-they-go portions of the game. Without getting too into details, there are a few ruses that hinge on some pretty serious fake outs, some of which seem a little out of bounds. But as this very serious game of Tag goes, nothing is off limits to get ahead, which left me wondering what lengths the real group of guys had gone to tag someone else.
At its core, this movie is about friendship and finding your inner-child, which I believe a worthy story to tell. Ultimately, there's not a ton of substance, but it does a solid job bringing those overarching themes home with the repeated line "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." This movie is meant to be light and fun, so I was fine leaving some of the deeper, darker plot lines touched on with some of the characters unexplored. The whole idea of this movie and how it plays out is absurd, but the fact that it is rooted in reality with a group of guys who truly love each other and are connected through this silly, childhood game balances it all just right.
If you want to read the article that started it all, check it out here. You may be surprised at how much of the movie models real life. There are also a couple of follow ups you can read about how the game got even more intense after the initial article was published.
Brit's pro tip: Stay through the credits for an extra special performance. And try to not want to start your own game with your friends after seeing this! (by the way, I'm "It" now.)