The humble American comedy. To many British viewers, this genre of film is a sacrilege to all that is hilarious in this world. However, when I first saw the trailer for Tag, the latest foray into the world of slapstick comedy, I was surprised. Excited, even. However, did this movie live up to its thoroughly intriguing premise? Or, did it miss the mark completely?
Tag follows a group of five friends who all reunite during the month of May to play a huge game of tag. However, following the rumour that the elusive Jerry (Jeremy Renner) is retiring from the game after this season, it becomes a mission for the other four men to be the first to tag him in 30 years.
As far as an idea for a movie goes, this one has it all. It’s inventive, it’s based on a true story, it’s (supposedly) funny and it has a brilliant cast, including Ed Helms, Jon Hamm and Isla Fisher. However, the execution leaves much to be desired.
Don’t get me wrong, this movie is brilliant if you’re just here for a bit of fun. It’s mildly amusing (in the loosest sense of the term) and is also mildly entertaining (also in the loosest sense of the term). Despite all of this amazing set up and stellar cast, however: this movie flops.
Let’s start with Ed Helms. Helms plays Hogie, the friend who keeps the friendship group together and says uninspiring quotes at inappropriate times. He has so many jokes set up for him, but nearly all of them drop like a ton of bricks.
Then, there is Jon Hamm. Hamm plays Bob, a CEO and the most conceited of the bunch. I’m still not really sure why Bob is there: he contributes nothing to the move other than an inner monologue every few minutes.
Then comes Chilli and Jerry. They’re both very different characters but they both contribute the same level of humour: not much at all. If anything, despite being high all the time, Chilli rarely ever does anything amusing. Plus, the weird relationship between him and Hogie’s mum is disturbing and unnecessary to the movie as a whole – it doesn’t even bear talking about.
Finally, we come to Sable (Hannibal Buress) and the bonus tag member, Anna (Isla Fisher). These characters were the stand outs for me, which is saying something as 90% of their jokes flopped, which is 10% less than everyone else in this movie. Hannibal Buress does, however, have some pretty funny moments. If anything, Buress is the saving grace of this movie, not the actual movie itself.
Yes, the plot is inventive and yes, the actual true story behind the plot is hilarious and genuinely intriguing. It just does not translate as well as it could have done onto the silver screen. The plot of this movie goes from zero to 100 almost immediately. It goes from fun, light humour, to dark, genuinely offensive humour in about 5 seconds flat. What is disappointing about this is that it doesn’t make it funnier. Instead, it just makes the entire experience awkward for everyone watching it, and it becomes almost too over the top to watch.
Granted, some jokes do land, and the plot isn’t terrible just before the last five minutes. But the principle that this movie had so much potential and wasted it on unneeded forest traps and spy gear demonstrates how this movie doesn’t care about the characters in it. It just wants to show off what they have to make you laugh.
I’m not denying that it’s rare to have a genuinely funny American comedy. I’m also not saying that all American comedies aren’t funny: there are some true classics. However, Tag didn’t just miss the mark for me – it ran straight past it. After a promising trailer, my expectations were just too high.
Tag had the possibility to be a complete front runner in comedies this year. Instead, it bottled the middle of the race and came crashing to a clattering heap on the floor. As far as comedies go, there are much better options anywhere you go. As far as fun goes, it’s definitely up there with the best in the genre, it’s just not that funny.