There is a thin line between absurdly funny and absurdly absurd. Ridiculousness is almost always funny, like in the film White Chicks (2004), but when absurdity is over the top films like Austin Powers (1997) are born. Not nearly to that extreme, but still on the spectrum, is Tag.
Tag is about a game that a group of friends started playing when they were nine years old, and still continue to play. The group of friends take the game very seriously, as the use it as a way to keep in touch with one another. During the month of May of each year, Hoagie (Ed Helms), Callahan (Jon Hamm), Sable (Hannibal Buress), Chilli (Jake Johnson), and Jerry (Jeremy Renner) chase each other down alleys, come out of each other’s closets, and break into each other’s houses just to tag one another. Out of this group, only Jerry has successfully avoided ever being tagged. Jerry attempts to keep his record one final time and retire; the rest of the group have other plans for him.
Ridiculous but endearingly funny? Yes and No.
The premise of the film is brilliant in its absurdity, as it combines huge potential for endless comedy with a genuine backstory about friendship. Somehow members of the audience can picture themselves, and their friends, caught up in such an insane setup. That’s all good, but the actual movie, not so much.
The film’s premise was dragged down by the execution; the parts where Jerry would slow down the world around him and somehow “feel” his friends coming was too “low budget-ninja-film”. Also, the escalation of the game could have been much more hilarious with simple believable pranks and scenes, but instead the filmmakers opted for an over the top, comedy-trying-to-be-comedy film vibe. By the end the film’s execution abandoned its premise from its simple and brilliant absurdity and left it with an over the top rendition of said premise.
Another main issue with the film was its characters; even though we do receive some background information about them, they are not developed enough to be relatable and/or lovable. Indeed, the information presented is quite shallow, and only allows audiences to explore the characters at a very superficial level. This is especially a shame in this film because the audience could have easily held certain characters to heart, and rooted for them. Instead, the audience is left at almost feeling indifferent to the result of the game since they have no one to cheer on.
As a group there was some chemistry between the actors/characters. This chemistry, however, was not enough to make audiences believe that the friendship among the characters was one that has lasted for decades. Most of them did an okay job with few standouts; Jake Johnson fit the blunt-mouthed-pot-head and did very well in the absurd scenes. John Hamm was supposed to be this narcissistic rich man, but he played it safe with a character that ended up being vague instead of spot on. Ed Helms was supposed to be somewhat of a lead in the film, but sadly was not able to fill these shoes, and delivered a mediocre performance. Jeremy Renner’s character was written to be over the top, but he was just too much. Hannibal Buress’s character was weird and, considering the hand he was dealt, he played the role very well.