The slogan for this movie is: “Based on a True Story. We’re Not Kidding.” Exactly. There are five friends that grew up playing Tag back when they owned lockers and carried cafeteria trays. But now they’re adults, and they all live far away from each other. But they stay in touch by keeping up with old times and keep the game of Tag on: Every May, the guys try to sneak around, beginning with whoever was tagged last the year before, and the person who is tagged last before the end of the month has to spend the next 11 with the knowledge of their loss. There are a group of friends out there in real life that do this. They are so devoted to the game, they have kept the No-Girls-Allowed rule running the past three decades. Well, the glaring thing is, one of the boys of the group is Jerry, played by Jeremy Renner, who’s perfect for the role, hence he’s known as Hawkeye, and the name fits him here more than his actual role as that character. Why? Well, he’s never been tagged while the game is in session. Not once. And Hoagie, played by Ed Helms, is the man of the group most devoted to catching him. Especially since Jerry’s retiring this year, and getting married. So is the thirtieth time the charm?
After the hit that was Blockers, a laugh-out-loud and kind of still-in-reality hit about the conflict of protecting your child and letting them take a step into the adult house, we now have a movie about a handful of friends who have grown up with their jobs but refusing to leave their youth. And I was enjoying the movie at first, especially with Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis), a Wall Street journalist reporting on the absurdity of them keeping up with the game, and Hoagie speeding through the neighbourhood to tag Chilli. I mean, think about it. The game of Tag is a more fun, and certainly more exercising, type of video game. The only difference is you can’t hide in other people’s homes. Maybe. But how do you make a story out of this? That is the question. And they decided what they decided...and I couldn’t help but feel if they went with a different premise in an attempt to still have a dramatic message, the movie wouldn’t have been any better.
Here’s the gist. Jerry’s outsmarting of the gang the first few times is actually hilarious, but by the time the movie’s halfway over, we feel as tired and angered by this as the heroes. He manages to trick and outmaneuver them on every level flawlessly, but it gets eventually too ridiculous. Look, would I enjoy a movie about a criminal who tries to escape from jail and ends up so close every time but keeps getting recaptured? Heck no, that would be the worst movie ever made. The guy would end up with more and more years piled onto his sentence. So there’s that. But here’s the deal. Just like a book, there’s Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3. Act 1 was introducing us to the characters and tagging all except you-know-who. Act 2 was the failed attempts. And then the movie sets up a third act that had me actually on the edge of my seat.
And here’s the message they send: That the game of Tag is supposed to be fun, and having it continuously played was meant to keep longtime friends united, but trying to tag Jerry for 30 years and failing has left them feeling like complete losers. Like they keep ending up with 1 decimal away from the Lotto Max. And that drives them insane, to the point where they don’t care what they have to do to win, even if that means hurting someone else. The movie and the characters never outright say it this way, but we feel it. Everyone reading this review has at one point or another embarrassingly lost a game, including yours truly. Losing multiple times is infuriating. And it starts off its third act with something actually as infuriating. And...it fails. It takes the overly easy route and I could think of a dozen ways it could’ve been better.
Okay, the last minute was fun to watch and I enjoyed some parts of this movie, especially the end credits that help emphasize how this was true life and how fun these people have playing the game, but the ways it could’ve been better are as glaring as if I was tagged and there were tons of other escape routes I know I could’ve dived through in time.