A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tag is a sometimes-crude comedy based on a true story about lifelong friends (Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Burress) who've been playing a decades-long game of tag. Expect lots of strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "ass," and more), as well as an extended gag about threatened oral sex as a torture tactic. Viewers will also get a glimpse of one character's buttocks. One character smokes a lot of pot (others indulge with him), one is a recovering alcoholic, and most of the others have drinks here and there. There's lots of slapstick violence; big falls and other dangerous things happen with no consequences.
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What's the story?
Based on hilarious real-life Wall Street Journal articles, TAG is about a game of, yes, tag that's been going on for decades. Five childhood friends -- Callahan (Jon Hamm), Jerry (Jeremy Renner), Hoagie (Ed Helms), Randy (Jake Johnson), and Sable (Hannibal Burress) -- now grown, declare each May a free-for-all tag fest. But Jerry has never been caught. So the other four, with help from one of their wives (Isla Fisher), scheme to finally tag him at his wedding (to a newcomer played by Leslie Bibb). A reporter named Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis) tags along.
Is it any good?
The concept for this comedy sounds like fun, but in practice it turns out to be pretty thin. Rather than projecting the stressful enjoyment of the constant fear of being caught, Tag presents a game that's so regulated -- and so taken for granted -- that the actual action comes in short, slapstick bursts. The whole thing feels blatantly stretched out to (barely) cover its 100-minute running time. There isn't much conflict because everyone agrees on the rules, and no one gets seriously hurt despite falls that would cripple real people. And the oft-repeated intended lesson -- that you get old if you stop playing games -- feels ham-handed. With a cast this talented, it's pretty disappointing for a comedy to largely fall this flat.
Renner's character is superhuman, without a moment of stress or fear; the others generally blend together. Fisher shines in her brief moments (because she's awesome) as an extremely gung-ho wife; Rashida Jones shows up, but her awesomeness isn't put to much use. Thomas Middleditch materializes for one of the funnier, if racier, bits. The film lurches, freezing for wan attempts at character moments that don't land. It's all just too safe. But if you do see Tag, stick around for the credits, which include footage of the real-life friends playing the actual game -- by far the most fun moments in the film. Also, check out the original WSJ articles; they're a hoot. If you're looking for a satisfying comedy, though, Tag is not it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the strong language in Tag. Does it seem necessary or excessive? What does it contribute to the movie?
The film repeatedly brings up the idea that you get old when you stop playing games. What do you think of that?
How close do you think the friends really are, if they didn't know that one of them had been in recovery for alcoholism (and was very open about it) for more than a decade -- or if they weren't invited to his wedding?
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