Film review: Tag has a spirited cast, but is let down by screenplay

PUBLISHED: 17:52 09 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:52 09 July 2018

A scene from the comedy Tag. Picture: WARNER BROS. PICTURES

A scene from the comedy Tag. Picture: WARNER BROS. PICTURES

© 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Wall Street Journal published an article in 2013 about a group of school friends who have managed to maintain contact with one another for decades by playing a game of tag every year in the merry month of May.

A scene from Tag. Picture: WARNER BROS. PICTURESA scene from Tag. Picture: WARNER BROS. PICTURES

This true-life story forms the basis for Jeff Tomsic’s debut – Hoagie (Ed Helms) assembles friends Bob (Jon Hamm), Chilli (Jake Johnson) and Sable (Hannibal Buress) to continue their ritual game, deciding to make the never-been-tagged Jerry (Jeremy Renner) as the prime target.

The scene seems set for a riotous and touching exploration of male friendship. What we get instead is a film that falls short of its vibrant premise and the comedic potential of its game cast.

This is a real shame, as its key players, particularly Hamm’s arrogant businessman and Johnson’s down-on-his-luck slacker, share a crackling chemistry whose barbed asides and incessant bickering give us a glimpse of the deeply funny film this could have been.

Rather than focus on this friendship and the childish extremes to which the characters resort to one-up each other, Tomsic and screenwriters Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen lumber the story with pointless subplots - Bob and Chilli’s romantic rivalry over Rashida Jones’ old flame has little impact on proceedings - and a predictable last act reveal so dramatic in nature it feels like it belongs in a different , much darker film.

Despite its spirited cast and the occasional strong visual gag, Tag is let down by a heavy-footed screenplay and unfocused direction.

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