Oscar Wilde once said that "life imitates art far more than art imitates life", but that isn't the case with Jeff Tomsic's debut feature film, Tag. The comedy opens with a claim that the film is based on true events, prompting me to immediately turn to my guest and casually remark at the looseness of the inspiration. And as the film navigates through its wild premise into a warm and heartfelt conclusion, Tag closes with real-life footage of the actual men behind the decades-long game that influenced the film, most of which closely resembled the hilarious onscreen moments captured by Tomsic and instantly spawned a newfound appreciation for the story.
Five childhood friends embrace the mantra that "we don't stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing", and it's resulted in an intricate lifelong game of Tag that spans the entire country during the month of May every year. These committed participants use the elaborate game to strengthen the bond of their friendship and keep correspondence as they grow older. Yet, the stakes get raised when Hoagie (Ed Helms) informs the other guys that Jerry (Jeremy Renner), the game's most accomplished player who's never been tagged before, plans to retire at the end of May. Therefore, Hoagie and the rest of the crew engage in multiple plots to finally tag Jerry once and for all.
Jeff Tomsic's perfectly cast debut feature comes with many strengths and weaknesses en route to a satisfying finale that culminates on a completely uplifting note. And while this softens the blow regarding the film's various miscues and shortcomings, Tag's wonderful closing sequence fails to mask blatantly egregious issues within the movie. For starters, I immediately picked up on a clear violation of the game's "no tag back" rule. An error like this is small and forgivable, yet a massive writing blunder surrounding Tag's unexpected "twist" at the end of the film proves much more detrimental. An earlier line of dialogue completely contradicts the story's attempted misdirection and this careless lack of attention to detail stains an otherwise decent effort. Admittedly, Tag's characters are relentless in their quests for laughs, mostly at the hands of comedy stalwarts Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson and Isla Fisher, hitting on jokes nearly as often as they whiff. Consequently, this approach keeps a light-hearted and persistently funny foundation constant throughout the film, however it also shines a bright spotlight on the frequent failed attempts at generating laughs. And although Tag begins with a clever and unique story, the novelty begins to wear off throughout the film's latter stages, which mounts pressure to deliver on a strong conclusion. Thankfully the film does just that, leaving Tag as a teetering comedic effort whose countless highs and lows will tip the scale in different directions for each individual viewer.