It's R. An R-rated comedy is pretty standard. Most of this one is for drug use, alcohol abuse, and language. There's some sex stuff, but there is no actual nudity in the film. It's a group of men behaving badly. Things that would get associated with that happen in the film. The most offensive thing in the film is a half-joke. There is a half-joke, half-something where miscarriages are discussed pretty heavily. Regardless, this is a light R. It would easily be edited for TV.
DIRECTOR: Jeff Tomsic
It's been a while since we've had a truly great comedy classic, right? Is it because comedy is so subjective? I think that Tag might be the result of being the final little cut that let me bleed out slowly. There's nothing, by itself, that is wrong with Tag. Tag is an okay comedy that tags itself in (pun intended) after a long stream of okay comedies. Seriously, is the last great comedy Step Brothers? There has to be something after that. There are great comedies out there, but the last dozen or so comedies that I've watched have been remarkably middle of the road. If you flip this and Game Night, you'd probably have me talking more positively about Tag, but this movie is simply fine. I don't think I can handle another "fine" comedy.
It has to be a studio thing, right? I want to blame studio intervention really hard in everything, so I'm going to do that. My theory behind this is that every comedy kind of looks and feels the same. They are all more risky than a film of other genres, but they are also tame compared to what should be going on. Tag might be the perfect example of that happening here. Jeremy Renner's Jerry is his character from The Bourne Legacy. I'm really glad that I watched that movie right before this. He is the Mary Sue of the story and director Jeff Tomsic did this thing that could have been really cool. The movie gets an action movie vibe to it for a few seconds when Jerry is getting chased. That's cool, I guess. But it doesn't really commit to the bit. There's always something a little bit cheeky about the whole thing. It's laughing at itself and that's the last thing that should be going on in that shot. The movie should be an action comedy. Instead, because Tomsic doesn't really commit to the bit as hard as he could, I feel like there's always the question being posed, "Do you get the joke? Can we go back to our comedy movie?" The thing is that I felt like the movie wanted to take it further. But I can also see that being a huge studio risk. Let's go down the rabbit hole here. I'm going to attack Big Bang Theory a bit. Disclaimer: Like what you like and don't be ashamed of it. If you love The Big Bang Theory, continue doing so. I don't like shaming people. But I am going to comment of how The Big Bang Theory is systematically watering down comedies. There have been some amazing high concept shows that have attempted to dethrone The Big Bang Theory. These are the shows that get cult followings. But The Big Bang Theory doesn't really ask us to think. It pretends that it challenges its viewers. After all, its protagonists are all smart and they make references a lot. But there isn't much depth to what is on screen. What studios took from this is that audiences are tired after work. They don't want to think, but they want to believe that they think. That's kind of what is going on in Tag. I have to believe that Tag has more jokes than The Big Bang Theory because I actually laughed a few times in Tag. But the movie presents itself as being very smart about its comedy. It appears to be a high concept movie about character growth, but really none of it takes people too far outside of their comfort zone. A studio had to say to Tomsic that this movie had to appeal to the market. To do that, they couldn't Shaun of the Dead this movie. Those movies don't make money. Shaun of the Dead is a high concept comedy that really commits to the bit. Instead, we get nods to the joke, but Tag doesn't commit to the bit. I weirdly laughed more at the footage of the real guys and their exploits. It's bad that I'd rather see a funny documentary about regular dudes than a comedy movie with some of my favorite actors.
I sound like I really hated this movie. I didn't. The movie is fine. I had a pretty good time with it. What sells this movie is its cast, primarily Hannibal Buress. I have to believe that Buress wrote some of his own bits because his jokes don't sound like the rest of the movies' bits. He has this fantastic delivery. I think that Jon Hamm is one of the greatest comedy gems out there. It's so odd that he's primarily a dramatic actor. But any time he comes out for a comedy, he lands the jokes. NOTE: For some reason, Weebly erased what I wrote beyond this point. I am attempting to recreate it, but I'm going to be more bitter about it. I'm thinking of his recent appearances on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or on 30 Rock. I don't know how he does it. He's somehow funnier than the actual comedians he's involved with. But you know who let me down for the first time? I'm really apologetic in case he ever reads this mainly because it isn't his fault. Jake Johnson is wasted in this movie. I'm going to lean heavily into my studio theory when it comes to Jake Johnson's character. Johnson's Chilli is a stoner deadbeat. It doesn't really sound like the original guys had the stoner deadbeat of the group. There's a Catholic priest involved in the actual game. But studios know that stoners are funny by concept. This becomes really problematic with the narrative. There's this love triangle with Rashida Jones and Jon Hamm. But Chilli offers nothing to this story. He's actually pretty awful. He says inappropriate things. He doesn't have his life together. He's a little funny, but mostly because this is a comedy. But he's supposed to be fighting for Rashida Jones with Jon Hamm's character? The only negative they have to say about Jon Hamm's character is that he is named "Bob." Like, that's it. Bob is successful and funny. He's a charmer and good looking. The only thing that Chilli has is that he's a little funny (but that's really subjective) and he's the underdog. Why make this choice? Jake Johnson is funnier than the role that is given him. On New Girl, he played kind of a schlubby character. But that character was earnest and adorable. He made mistakes and had his vices, but those vices didn't define him. Why not make him Nick Miller? I know its lazy, but it is a better choice than full on stoner deadbeat. Also, why is no one concerned about Chilli. The story is about these guys who stay close because of this game, but no one is concerned about Chilli's rampant alcoholism and drug abuse. His wife left him. Why is this not central to the story? Hoagie's mom keeps hitting on him, but this is such a background joke. It is almost like they couldn' tell what joke Chilli was going to be about. But let's refocus because there's one performance that completely tickled me. Isla Fisher has completely got me convinced that she can do anything. Her role is absolutely fantastic in this movie. The idea of having a psychopath on the team that is not allowed to play is what I needed. The entire movie teases what kind of player she'll be, tantalizing the viewer with the possibilities. She manages to tag every joke really well and I love the shifts in her character. While the actual archetype isn't new, it is done extremely well in this movie.
I don't know what to think of the miscarriage stuff. The movie tries having its cake and eating it too with this bit. SPOILER: To escape a room, Jerry has his fiancee fake a miscarriage. Narratively, this is the step that is too far for all of the players. It almost kills the game. From a formula / structure perspective, this is the moment where the film unravels for the characters. Something needed to happen here to unseat the stakes. It ends the game for a lot of the characters and it seems like all is lost for this moment. But the movie kind of can't help but slightly laugh at this moment. It claims that this moment is deadly serious, but there are moments where the movie is afraid to embrace this vulnerable moment. I don't know if the filmmakers were afraid of completely losing the audience at this moment. A miscarriage in a lighthearted game of tag is a mood killer. Finding out that the entire thing is fake is just dark. I wish it took the risk. If the movie is going to go dark, it should really accept the darkness and work towards bringing it back. Instead, it gives this wishy-washy tone that really is filming with a safety net. Leslie Bibb is constantly given this role, by the way. She's always the worst girlfriend / wife character. It's like she was born to play throwing cold water on a party. (I'm not sure if that's a mixed metaphor, but I have to plow through this emotion.) Then the movie rides pathos pretty hard. A lot of it doesn't feel earned, though. Hoagie's illness is not teased earlier at all. The entire movie made me feel like it was fake and the moral of the story is that Hoagie won't cross a line. When the movie tells me that he crosses a line, it is definitely "tell, don't show." It's an odd choice. The only thing about this choice that I love is that Hoagie still fails. Hoagie attacking the wedding is a phenomenal moment and I really approve.
I can't stress how the movie is more disappointing than bad. We keep getting the same stakes and the same risks in our comedies nowadays. None of these comedies are concerned about losing their audience because everything is safe as all get-out. I used to get teased about using the phrase "Paint-by-numbers", but that's what this comedy feels like. Everything is done safely and without concern for actually making a great film. No one on board really thought that they were making the next The Jerk or Hangover. Instead, I'm sure that the studio at best was hoping to make enough money to justify a sequel. I don't think that would happen because this premise is pretty spent.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.