Review: Tag

Score: B+

Director: Jeff Tomsic

Cast: Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Rated: R

In recent years, we've been lucky to get even one successful studio comedy every 12 months, sometimes going long stretches between any mainstream film that can consistently make us laugh. But in 2018, we've already had two: Game Night and Blockers. And now you can add Tag to that list, because it's also a total blast that's consistently hilarious.

While the premise – grown men playing the game of Tag – is inherently ridiculous, it's based on a true story, as chronicled in a 2013 Wall Street Journal feature. The film, perhaps unwisely, turns that into a meta aspect, with Annabelle Wallis' reporter profiling Jon Hamm's insurance exec, only to be interrupted by a disguised Ed Helms tagging him mid-interview. Almost immediately, they're off to the races, gathering their crew (Jake Johnson and Hannibal Buress) to take down their buddy Jerry (Jeremy Renner), who's soon to marry and retire from the game.

Tag hits the high bar of a lot of great comedies, succeeding at almost every type of humor: inappropriate jokes, one-liners, insults, visual gags and recurring bits. Each character gets his moment in the sun to score a big laugh. And while this is mostly a boys club, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones and Leslie Bibb all get multiple chances to shine. While the characters aren't especially deep, they're all distinct and have their own personalities and humor styles. (Well, except poor Annabelle Wallis. She gets nothing to do except act shocked at how far these guys will go to win.)

The film takes a super-dark twist in its third act, and some audience members at my screening were not on board with jokes about such a serious topic. The film also doubles down on the morbidity later, but in a way that's more sincere and heartfelt. Thankfully, it never goes full melodrama, defusing the sadness with even more jokes in a way that feels true to the movie we've been watching.

Tag isn't as high-concept or deep as some other excellent comedies this year, but it's a solid source of laughs in a summer that sorely needs them.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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