Tag

I had mixed feelings about the trailer for this. Usually comedies show the funniest scenes in the commercials, or they edited them in a way that looks hysterical. These showed a few funny scenes, but it looked like such maniacal slapstick, I thought it would be horrible. When a critic I know who saw an early screening told me, “I wasn’t impressed. It was just a bunch of d**k jokes,” I thought it would be a waste of my two hours. Imagine my surprise when I found myself laughing more than I thought I would, and the two hours went by fast.

This is a true story (if you can believe it), that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, about a group of classmates that at the age of 9, had fun playing tag. They decided to keep the game going, even as they became adults, started families, and moved to different parts of the country. The month of May is when they do it, often dressing up in disguises to make sneak attacks on someone in the group.

First time director Jeff Tomsic (who had previously been involved in the comedy scene) gets a lot of help with the script by having an insanely talented cast.

At times, you wonder if they’re taking things too far. When they find out someone in their gang is going to AA, they figure one of the AA meetings is a perfect time to get him (although they never counted on just what kind of damage can be done with complimentary donuts chucked at the noggin of a charging tagger).

Someone’s father died? Yes, that’s sad, let me give you a hug, and…by the way, you’re “it.”

[that reminded me of a similar scene in a terrific Mike Birbiglia movie Don’t Think Twice, where an improv group riffs on jokes while leaving a dad’s funeral].

Right from the start, you know this movie is going to be fun. Ed Helms, playing a successful doctor, is applying for a job as a janitor. The one doing the interview is hysterical, played by Lil Rel Howery (Get Out).

In a scene where we hear about legal amendments and formal foundational rules to the game are discussed, I chuckled, the way the idiotic crowd at Fifty Shades did when their contracts were being signed.

Hannibal Buress, who deserves credit for bringing Bill Cosby’s crimes out in the open, is always hysterical in movies. Just the way he says his lines makes me laugh (I love his take on why “Bi-weekly” can mean two different things), but the fact that he suffers depression, makes it harder to laugh at some of what he says and how he’s tangled up with this wacky group.

Jon Hamm plays a character you don’t worry about. He’s a good looking guy that’s making lots of money running a company (in which Helms became a janitor, simply to tag him during an important meeting). He brings a lot of charm to the role and shows he can pull off comedy.

I’ve grown tired of the pothead characters, but Jake Johnson (who I loved so much as the snotty reporter in Safety Not Guaranteed), brings a fun take to it. Extra points for having Brian Dennehy as his burn-out father. Never thought I’d see the day when Dennehy would be toking out of a bong, covered in tattoos and bad facial hair.

I’ve also gotten tired of wacky comedies that make a mom (Nora Dunn) of one in the group, try to seduce or flirt endlessly with one of her son’s friends. Yet it was really funny in this.

It’s weird to think that with those comedic folks, Jeremy Renner is the one who really knocks it out of the park with his character. He’s the elusive one that has never been tagged in all these decades of playing tag. The way the camera will freeze when he sees someone approaching him, and the dialogue we hear running through his brain, is terrific. And, you know how we all saw the scene of Tom Cruise breaking his ankle on that stunt in the latest Mission: Impossible? Well, Renner broke both his arms doing this movie and I kept trying to figure out what scene it might have been. Some of the action sequences are quite elaborate.

The soundtrack provides some fun, too. Hearing Nirvana, Crash Test Dummies, and Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” as they go chasing each other through a forest; or Danzig’s “Mother” during a fight scene when one is dressed as a grandmother walking through the mall. A lot of the soundtrack is rap stuff, and I was thrilled to hear the Beastie Boys “Shake Your Rump,” as one  character chases another down flights of stairs in a sketchy apartment complex. And you laugh hearing Ice-T’s “Colors” because it so doesn’t fit with what’s happening on screen.

Isla Fisher, who was in one of the funniest movies ever (even though Rolling Stone didn’t put Wedding Crashers on it’s list of 50 best from the last 18 years), is fun here, as the crazy wife of Helms who wants him to win so badly.

Look…this movie has a lot of flaws. At times, it got repetitive. But for a crazy summer comedy, you could do a lot worse. It’s childish fun, and reminded me of what it was like to be 12-years-old and watch some dumb comedy that wasn’t supposed to be Tootsie or Some Like it Hot, just a bunch of Mel Brooks type of silliness.

This is a guilty pleasure that most people are going to enjoy.

3 stars out of 5.