Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm in Tag (Photo: Warner)

★★½ (out of four)
STARS Ed Helms, Jon Hamm

Hawkeye was noticeably MIA in Avengers: Infinity War, but you can catch his alter ego Jeremy Renner in Tag, a hit-and-miss comedy with, perhaps surprisingly, more hits than misses.

The most startling trivial pursuit regarding this film is that it’s based on a true story, one that was featured in a Wall Street Journal article back in 2013 (“It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being ‘It,’” by Russell Adams). The feature was about 10 men who have spent the last few decades taking one month out of every year (February) to play a game of tag, in which the final person tagged during that month has to be “It” for an entire year until the next cycle. Naturally, attempting to focus on 10 individuals would turn the film version into, well, basically an Avengers movie, so the decision was made to downsize to five guys and one very enthusiastic wife.

The plot centers around the fact that one player, the suave Jerry Pierce (Renner), has never once been tagged in all the decades of playing. Thus, the other four gents — game-obsessed Hogie (Ed Helms), corporate smoothie Bob (Jon Hamm), wry Sable (Hannibal Buress) and irresponsible Chilli (Jake Johnson) — have long been determined to nail Jerry. They feel that this is finally the year, as Jerry is getting married and the others — including Hogie’s exuberant wife Anna (Isla Fisher) — believe he might be distracted enough to let down his guard. Fat chance.

Too many comedies these days include a character who’s basically an idiot and allowed to utter supposedly shocking declarations (thanks a lot, Zach Galifianakis) — these guys are never as funny as intended, and that’s again the case here with Johnson’s tiresome Chilli. Yet Hamm again demonstrates sly comedy chops, Buress is gifted most of the best lines, and Fisher is always a delightful dervish.

The real story is primarily one of friendship, but in this filmic version, the emphasis is naturally on rude pranks and crude one-liners. That’s perfectly fine — the movie is often very funny when it’s going for the throat — but it does render the sentimental final act soggy and not particularly convincing (and the dire fate of one character is brought up and then abandoned in a haste to a happy ending). Overall, though, there are enough bright bits and engaging performances to give Tag a pass.


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