Tag opens letting the audience knows it is based on a true story and then proceeds to exist in a cartoon world with cartoon physics and characters. That being said Tag made me laugh for about 40 minutes before completely falling apart.
The film follows a group of friends who have been playing a game of tag every May for about 30 years. The real story was a feature for the Wall Street Journal and told about the ways in which friends can stick together through life, even if the only connection seems to be to continue a silly game. The film version reduces the number of friends and the story to a series of action film style bouts of grown men trying to touch other grown men.
Initially, the film is fun as we meet successful Bob (Jon Hamm) who is being interviewed for the paper when Hogan (Ed Helms) goes to extreme lengths to become a janitor in his company just to get a chance to tag him. Hogan lets Bob know that Jerry (Jeremy Renner) is getting married and wants out of the tag pack. They soon enlist Randy (Jake Johnson) and Kevin (Hannibal Buress) to go crash the wedding and finally break Jerry's record of never being tagged before he bows out.
The film tires to throw in life lessons and a big emotional finale. None of it works as the friends hardly feel like real people. What does work is the film's outrageous physical comedy. The tag pursuits often feature Renner as some Sherlock Holmes style John Wick, beating up his pals mercilessly. It is hard to believe anyone would stay friends with Jerry. He is an asshole in about every frame of the film.
While the film brings some belly laughs if physical comedy is your thing, it doesn't bring much else. The plot is laughably thin, basically stringing these tag bouts together with little narrative drive. When the film tries to go for something more substantial in the third act, it doesn't work. This may because the film goes from light and silly to some pretty off-color humor about waterboarding and miscarriages. The shift to these darker jokes shows how the filmmakers ran out of ideas and decided to resort to lazy, shock humor.
Tag is the type of film best suited for catching on TV on a lazy afternoon. You won't mind that you left it on but will be glad you didn't put any effort into seeing it. I do wish this story had gotten a sharper treatment and been able to balance the laughs with a meatier story about long-lasting friendships. Isla Fisher is a standout here as Hogan's extremely competitive wife but not much else is.