CineMaierson: “Tag” Review

Despite taking an unnecessarily dark turn in its second half, Tag is still an amusing, ridiculous action comedy.

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Despite taking an unnecessarily dark turn in its second half, “Tag” is still an amusing, ridiculous action comedy.

Eli Maierson, Senior Assignments Editor

Equipped with barely functioning eyes, a laptop and no experience whatsoever, Senior Assignments Editor Eli Maierson reviews the latest the theater has to offer in “CineMaierson.”

The first 20 minutes of “Tag” feel like they were made just for me. Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jon Hamm and Hannibal Buress running around like idiots, parkouring through cities while classic hip-hop from A Tribe Called Quest plays? The very beginning of the film — despite a simplistic plot — is pure fun.

“Tag” is at its strongest when it refuses to take itself seriously; an all-expansive, national game of tag between childhood friend is a silly premise, and director Jeff Tomsic knows that. The action sequences are crazy, over-the-top and hilarious.

It is for this reason that the first half of the movie shines above the second. As Hogan (Helms) rounds up the old gang for a final chance at tagging Jerry (Renner), the audience starts to discover every character’s quirks. Bob (Hamm) is a successful and arrogant businessman, Sable (Buress) is paranoid and Chilli (Jake Johnson) is a stoner.

Renner and Buress command the spotlight with two distinct styles of humor. Renner’s character is unrealistically athletic and smart, outwitting the rest of the gang throughout. As he ninjas around, beating up his friends, it occured to me that this character is just as exciting as his portrayal of Hawkeye, an actual superhero.

A poor script with unrealistic dialogue can ruin a film, no matter how capable the actors are. Buress’ character has no development, and the one character trait he exemplified at the beginning is ignored the rest of the movie. A lesser actor would have given a half-hearted performance and gone down with the sinking ship of the screenplay.

Despite these challenges, Buress, equipped with a masterful deadpan delivery, lands nearly every line. His personality in this film is undeniable.

The problems with “Tag” start to creep up in the second half. Rashida Jones plays Cheryl Deakins, the love interest of both Chilli and Bob. While Jones’ performance isn’t terrible, her character is so unnecessary it becomes hard to stomach her. It feels as though she was shoehorned into the script to boost the runtime and ticket sales.

Another issue is the character of Rebecca Crosby (Annabelle Wallis), the Wall Street Journal reporter sent to cover the men as they play. When she was introduced at the beginning of the film along with Bob, I was hopeful that she would help ground this story in reality and be a major character. Her role is, sadly, inconsequential.

The jokes take a dark and twisted turn later in the film, and they rubbed many audience members the wrong way. Mostly initiated by Chilli, the disturbing cracks about miscarriages go on for way too long. This gross scene takes what could have been a sweet film of friendship and gives it an unnecessary edgy side.

At the very end, a bizarre plot twist attempts to reignite the original, charming tone of the movie. While I won’t spoil it here, it’s so cliche and overly-sweet that it hurts the overall experience. At least it leads to a happy ending.

“Tag” surprised me as a semi-heartwarming tale of friendship littered with laugh-out-loud moments. Unfortunately, it feels bogged down by lame twists and characters. It would have worked better as an 80-minute film instead of a clunky, 100-minute one.

Rating: 3/5