TAG

‘You’re it!’

Everyone intends to stay in touch with their friends from high school, but after graduation that is rarely accomplished by most. Except for a band of mates from Spokane, Washington (United States) who managed to keep a game of tag (Australia: Tips) going for nearly 30 years after graduating from high school. Regardless of where they’ve found themselves in the world, during one month of the year they would strive to surprise their friends by tagging them and hoping not to be designated as ‘it’ at the end of the month. This unlikely bond between friends was reported by journalist Russell Adams at The Wall Street Journal and has managed to get the attention of Hollywood and made into a film. 

Based loosely on the true-to-life story, Hogan “Hoagie” Malloy (Ed Helms) has worked out the details of how to get past the security of Bob Callahan’s (Jon Hamm) successful pharmaceutical company. During Bob’s interview with journalist Rebecca Crosby (Annabelle Wallis), Hogan manages to get into the boardroom and tag his friend. To the bewilderment of the reporter, she gets the full explanation of the intrusion on the conversation with the top executive and why the two men had to leave and commence a long-running game of tag. 

These men were part of a group of men who had been playing the children’s chasing game for decades, but had never been able to catch their friend and nemesis, Jerry Pierce (Jeremy Renner). The writer decides to join these men as they round up the rest of their former classmates to hash out a plan to finally manage to make Jerry, ‘IT.’

It is hard to imagine that this film received serious consideration, but after reading through the article in The Wall Street Journal, it had to have become too irresistible to pass up. TAG is a story that is difficult to comprehend, but has mindless fun written all over it. The challenge for television turned feature-length director Jeff Tomsic is finding enough in this story to keep audiences attention for 100 minutes, which he only just manages to achieve. 

The key to the success of this ridiculous premise being believable comes down to the chemistry of the cast and even though it is stretched to the limit, they prove to be the right mix of personalities. Hamm and Helms are joined by Jake Johnson (The Mummy), Hannibal Buress (Blockers) and Isla Fisher (Keeping Up with the Jones) to provide an amalgamation of the real men who played the game. While Jeremy Renner proves that he has the charisma to work on his own and to be the perfect foil to their immature antics and scheming.

The dialogue between this bizarre band of comrades makes for hilarious situations and infantile banter that will cause most male audience members to go back to the less-than-glorious days of high school and smile. The script does delve into banter that would make most people embarrassed to have their mum in the room with references to male genitalia and the use of illegal substances, which makes this inaccessible to the younger set. Not being ideal for those with sensitive dispositions, the majority of the film is reliant on action sequences that refer to classic films like Rambo and the latest Jackie Chan film. 

TAG is absurd, immature, embarrassing and unexpectedly entertaining. Realistically, most people will buy tickets to see this film and question their decision until a few minutes into the movie. Then they will move into the realisation that this story was not meant to be taken too seriously and there is an underlying message of friendship that makes it worth the ticket price. The film is mindless fun that is as forgettable as a game of tag with friends, but that is the point. It is invigorating, it will make you laugh for no reason and ultimately will have you want to reach out to get in touch with a friend, literally. You’re it. 

Reel Dialogue: Have you contacted your friends this week? 

Similar to Game Night and the recent release of Ocean’s 8, TAG touches on the value of a group of friends. Regardless of the season of life, everyone needs others to enjoy life together. Each person within your group offers something different to the others and this is what shows the reason they are there. This circle of friends change as people travel through life cycles, but this does not diminish their importance in life. 

The concepts of friendship and community have winning applications and examples in the Bible. From the bonds of David and Jonathan, the letters written by Paul and the example of Jesus and his disciples, we can see the need for these individuals in this earthly existence. If this film does anything, it might be a challenge to call up a few friends to get together and invest in a gift given to us by God: friends. 

Verses on Friendship: 

Proverbs 13:20, Proverbs 18:24, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,1 Corinthians 15:33, Colossians 3:12-14

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.