You’re Not It
Directed by Jeff Tomsic
Starring Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Isla Fisher
Released June 15th, 2018
Friendship is a mystery. What brings people together? Is it as simple as being in close proximity, with shared interests, or common enemies? What motivates pals to stay in touch year after year, after finding a family, career, and life of one’s own? I don’t have many friends, let alone lifelong pals, so this remains a mystery to me. Maybe I should have spent more time playing tag.
“It Takes Planning, Caution To Avoid Being ‘It’” is a Wall Street Journal article from 2013 written by Russell Adams that chronicles ten pals who have played the same game of tag during one month out of the year for more than twenty years. The men live all over the world and yet still make time to take part in this childhood game as a way of maintaining contact. The WSJ article is the basis for this fictional version, with many details changed, including the gender of the reporter (played by Annabelle Wallis), the month of play (May instead of February) number of men (five instead of ten) and vocations (a stoner instead of a priest).
Tagstars Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson, and Jon Hamm. While individually I usually enjoy these performers, I was surprised at how poorly they work as a team. Helms is up to his same manic tricks that we’ve seen in everything from The Office to The Hangover to Vacation. Johnson is playing a stoner and this means he wears a hoodie and smokes dope and that’s about it for the depth of his character. Hamm is admirably game, going out of his way to be goofy and turn his stuck-up businessman character into a lovable…ham. I don’t know if Buress’ lines were mostly ad-libbed or if he stuck to the script, but either way his character didn’t make me laugh once.
Jeremy Renner seems straight up embarrassed to be in this movie. Or maybe that’s just the pain meds coming across in his performance, seeing as how he broke both of his arms while attempting a stunt on the second day of filming Tag. Renner finished the shoot with the aid of CGI arms, and you cannot tell anything is askew watching the finished film. This guy really is an Avenger.
Isla Fisher, as Helm’s character’s wife, turns up the crazy meter up to eleven. It’s been thirteen years since Wedding Crasher sand she’s just as much of a scene stealer as she’s ever been. Yet I found myself more interested in the smaller roles in the film, played by the likes of Lil Rel Howery, Brian Dennehy, and Rashida Jones. What are their stories? I bet they have funnier things going on in their lives than an endless game of tag.
As neat as the premise is, Tag failed to keep me engaged in its story and the one-note characters failed to make me laugh at their antics. By the time the film tried to tug on my heartstrings, I was only ready to roll my eyes.
Tagis the directorial debut of Jeff Tomsic, who does his best to balance the comedy in the film with a message about the importance of friendship. The fact that it doesn’t come across as a great balancing act is less a fault to lay at his feet than his casting director (Rich Delia). Watching Tag, I found it hard to believe Helms, Renner, Buress, Johnson and Hamm had ever met previous to this project and yet we’re supposed to accept them as lifelong friends. Chemistry on screen is something you either have or do not and I’m sad to say for this cast it’s “not.” Thankfully during the end credits of the film we see video footage of the real-life tag players, a nice reminder of the strange, silly power of friendship.