Did you ever have that funny friend in high school or college who was naturally charismatic and effervescent, the huckster and the swinger who could make everyone laugh despite never saying anything that clever or humorous? “Tag” is essentially that friend stripped down to a 100 minute movie, so confident that it can make us laugh it doesn’t even bother to try.
It all started back in 2013, when Russell Adams wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal about a group of men who have been playing the same game of tag for 23 years. That article became small sensation and rightfully so, because there’s something so joyous about picturing middle-aged businessmen jet-setting across the country to tag each other. In Hollywood, many a mogul read the story and thought to themselves “this should be a movie!” Five years later with five-almost leading men, “Tag” the movie is now a reality, and sadly a disappointing one.
The movie follows Hogan (Ed Helms), as he reunites his childhood friends Bob (Jon Hamm), Randy (Jake Johnson), and Kevin (Hannibal Buress) to tag their uber-elusive friend Jerry (Jeremy Renner) at his wedding. Joining the manchildren on their quest is Hogan’s wife Anna (Isla Fisher) and Cheryl (Rashida Jones), a love interest of years ago to some of the guys. Their first attempt to tag Jerry is funny, with scenes being slowed-down so we can get a glimpse of what each tagger is thinking. Then, the same formula is repeated no less than three times, like the movie needs to take the extra time to think of an actual joke to put in its characters heads.
“Tag” feels like it should be funny, since it has the same jolliness and inebriated euphoria we spot in other classic manchild movies like “Wedding Crashers,” “Old School,” and even “The 40-year-old Virgin.” Unlike those movies’ equally juvenile characters, we get the feeling that “Tag’s” stars would never spend time with each other in real life. It doesn’t help that only Buress and Renner’s characters have personalities, but even for the other actors who are more or less playing themselves, there is no chemistry between them. They’re less a tightly-wound handful of best bros and more a hapless group freshmen who couldn’t go home over Thanksgiving break and desperately knocked on dormitory doors, looking for anyone to hang out with.
Fisher essentially does round two of her overly-aggresive dame from “Wedding Crashers,” and Jones is given too short of screen time, considering how much importance is placed on her character. The ending seems more morose than encouraging, reminding us of how this premise was faulty to begin with. And as we wonder why the movie feels increasingly dull, why the characters are so undeveloped, and why Russell Adams’ reporter was changed into a hot blonde woman (or why a reporter is even included at all since they’re barely relevant to the plot), we see that this was co-written by the guy who wrote “Waiting,” another unfunny movie that acts so confidently as a comedy people just believe it, and everything makes sense.
“Tag” is proclaiming itself it, a comedic piece of the moment and the here and now. Even though the movie gives us no evidence to support that its claim of quality, “Tag” calls itself “it” so proudly we don’t even bother asking who tagged it in the first place.