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Lots of films have been made with nary a sense of irony into the stupidity of the premise. Pirates of the Caribbean turned a Disney amusement park ride into a Disney cinematic franchise. Battleship was turned from a children's game into a super duper bad action film. So it was only a matter of time before someone turned the game of Tag into a film, right? Well yeah, but it may be more nuanced than you think.
Jeff Tomsic's feature film debut (after directing television sketch comedy and standup specials for several years) was based on a script by Rob McKittrick (Waiting…) and Mark Steilen, who adapted the work from a Wall Street Journal article. So yes, as the film says, "Based on a true story. We're not kidding." "Hoagie" (Ed Helms, Father Figures) decides to apply for a job at a company that Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm, Keeping Up with the Joneses) owns, and is conducting an interview with a Wall Street Journal reporter about. As it turns out, Hoagie and Bob are friends, and have been participating in a decades-long game of tag, and Hoagie was trying to tag Bob. Hoagie brings the news that their friend Jerry (Jeremy Renner, Captain America Civil War) is getting married. More importantly, Jerry has never been tagged in the 30 years the game has been going on, and Hoagie thinks now is the time. So they get Randy (Jake Johnson, Jurassic World), a pothead from Colorado and Kevin (Hannibal Buress, The Secret Life of Pets) from Portland together also to completely reunite the group in an attempt to break the streak.
Over the course of the chase, the WSJ reporter, who is along for the ride literally, gets the perspectives from the group about why it is they're doing it. And the reasons kind of work. It's not that they want to remain children, but they want to keep the same feeling of camaraderie that they had as kids. They get involved in each other's lives, try to help them out when they can, and every May, the gloves come off for the game. The reasons for the game and the relationships built therein are the things that the story wants you to buy into.
And the ensemble do a darn good job of letting you do so. Are there moments of comic tomfoolery or silly lines uttered in quasi-believable moments? Sure. But Tag does a fine job of balancing the silly comedy with reminding you of the road here to begin with. Helms serves as a fine advocate for the group, complemented superbly by his wife in the film, played by Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers). There are minor moments of personality evolution such as when Randy and Bob see the girl they both had a crush on growing up (played by a somewhat underused Rashida Jones), and there's the faintest whiff of nostalgia for their childhoods as they feel a small conflict to today's maturity. Or maybe that's all the joints Randy is lighting, I don't know.
The story that the cast of Tag tells is one where they both give you an appreciation of why you're laughing before making you laugh for the dumb stuff anyway is nice, but what makes it work is that they know what the balance should be and it works, and know when to utilize it. The moves may appear telegraphed, but the confidence in using them is a nice thing when they work, as they do in this film.The Blu-ray:
Warner gives Tag a damn decent 2.40:1 widescreen presentation. The exteriors during the wedding rehearsals look vivid, and the transition into the darker forest provides superb contrast. Image detail is generally decent and flesh tones are natural. The palette lacks oversaturation and the image is free of banding, smearing or other artifacts. Look, if you want to see Brian Dennehy's beard in Blu-ray in fascinating detail, you've come to the right place.The Sound:
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround puts in a little work but there are moments of imbalance when the dialogue segues to a moment when a song or two is in it (the scene where "Colors" kicks in is a little jarring), but otherwise the tag scenes are enveloping and dialogue is generally well-balanced except for those jumps. Directional effects are present and a little inconsistent, and the channel panning in the attempted tags is immersive to boot, as is the low-end that pumps a little power into the film. Decent listening.The Extras:
Not that much, not that surprising these days. "Meet the Real Tag Brothers" (5:23) looks at the geopolitical ramific..no, it looks at the origins of this with the real people involved, and includes some video of them, how they got famous, and how it became this crazy movie. 8 deleted scenes (6:20) give Buress a chance to break out, as does the gag reel (8:05), the last three minutes of which give Buress some time to do alternate takes on a scene.Final Thoughts:
Putting a lot of emphasis on whatever timelessness Tag may have is a little unfair to it, and is a take too hot for these hands. But at its well-intentioned core, the thought of decades-long friendship, culminating in an annual child's game with grown-up execution, is kind of cool and something that some of us could use in our lives. Technically the film looks pretty darned good and the lack of extras is a bit of a downer. But do not try to avoid Tag, receive it with both hands.