First Hit: Funny moments but it also felt like it was pressing for the laughs.
At the end of the film there’s shot of an old Wall Street Journal article showing about 10 men who were the subject of a story about a group of guys keeping a game of tag going for many years. This was the premise and storyline for this film.
The idea of a group of guys playing the game of tag into their 30’s and 40’s has a nice ring to it. It is easy to see that this game, which the group started playing when they were young boys, is a way for them to stay connected to each other.
The film touches on this, but sometimes, a bit too cavalierly and tries to go for the laugh and not a deeper story. My sense was that this game between these men, besides being fun, grounded them in their roots and where they came from. Having just gone to my 50th high school reunion, it was interesting to hear stories of my old class mates and what their path had been. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to keep two friendships together for over 55 years, and it’s been nice to connect with them every few months and to have been part of their lives.
Here we have Hogan “Hoagie” Malloy (Ed Helms), Reggie (LilRei Howery), Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm), Randy “Chilli” Cillano (Jake Johnson), and Jerry Pierce (Jeremy Renner) as five friends who have played tag together since they were young boys. As they got older, they set aside the month of May as tag month. Anytime during this month, the person who is “it”, can and will find one of the other guys and tag him. At the end of the month, the game ends for another eleven months.
The hook this film uses was that Jerry had never been tagged. Somehow, for more than twenty years, he’s been able to avoid being “it.” Hoagie learns that Jerry is getting married in May and thinks this will be the opportune time to tag him. He rounds up the rest of the gang to plot this once in a lifetime score.
The opening scene has Hoagie getting hired as a janitor in Bob’s company, so that he can surprise Bob, tag him, and then enlist him in the effort to get Jerry. This is how the storyline gets the Wall Street Journal involved because at the time Hoagie tags Bob, he’s being interviewed by Rebecca Crosby (Annabelle Wallis) who is a journalist interviewing Bob about his company.
There are funny scenes as this small group join forces to get Jerry, but the over the top performance goes to Anna Malloy (Isla Fisher), Hoagie’s wife. She is intense and focused to help Hoagie’s dream come true, getting Jerry. There is a reason for this and you’ll have to see the film to know why.
Helms is good as the guy who instigates the plan to get Jerry tagged. Howery was strong as one of the members who had his own way of participating. Hamm was very good as the successful business professional who sets aside his business for the sake of the game. Johnson’s role was a little off for me. I didn’t see the reason to have someone whose ideal life was being high on pot as a good plot device. Renner was excellent as Jerry. His intense and intelligent actions were good for this story. Wallis was OK as the Wall Street Journal reporter following the story. Fisher was perfect as the over the top wife willing to make the game happen for her husband and herself. Rob McKittrick and Mark Stellen wrote an OK screenplay, although I think it needed to not focus on generating a laugh. It could have been funny without resorting to physical site gags. Jeff Tomsic directed this film and would have done better to redirect the emphasis towards the friendship between these men.
Overall: I enjoyed the film but would have rather had a more engaged full story.