Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 22, 2018

Critic's Corner: Looking for a great summer movie? ‘Tag’ isn’t really ‘it’

Think for a moment about your childhood friends and the games you played.

Several of my friends and I played baseball in our driveways and the road outside our houses in a close-quarters neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio. During summer break, if we weren’t taking a break to eat, we were pros, playing to win the World Series.

I liked playing as Dave Concepcion, shortstop for the Big Red Machine (the Cincinnati Reds). His glove was a ball magnet and his arm had a direct line to first base.

Now imagine if you could somehow recapture those days in all of their innocence and fun – even for a moment. What do you think it would feel like to erase the years between then and now and be a boy or girl again, without a care in the world?

Hogan, Jerry, Bob, Randy and Kevin don’t know what it’s like to return to the days of their youth because they never left them. As young boys, they started playing a game of never-ending tag, and as they became adults and took on myriad responsibilities, they continued to play.

“Tag” picks up as these men are making their way through middle age. Although life has scattered them across the country, they pick up where they left off every May and play for the entire month, ambushing each other at opportune moments and calling for truces so they can man-bond.

It’s often said men need a reason to spend time together and bond. Tag is their reason.

You can imagine the fun that ensues. In one scene, Hogan, who’s “it,” poses as a wobbly old woman in a mall, complete with a wig, dress and walker.

As Jerry, who’s never been tagged, approaches, Hogan ditches the walker and goes in for the kill.

Jerry steals Hogan’s purse, though, and uses it to defend himself from the tag. After a few minutes of kung fu hijinks, Jerry has Hogan trapped under the walker.

Hogan is desperate to tag Jerry because Jerry has suggested he might retire from the game because he’s getting married. But Jerry is a ninja, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

I really wanted to like “Tag.” The film is based on a true story about a group of older men who continued to play the same game of tag they started as kids.

During the credits, we even see real-life video of one of them dressed up as an old lady attempting to ambush one of the other players. I thought it sounded like a fun idea for a film.

But no. “Tag” shoots itself in the foot with a goofy improvisational style that yielded very little comedic gold. Perhaps the filmmakers thought giving the actors a loose rein would make their interactions seem more genuine and personal, but it often resulted in them spouting dialogue that didn’t make sense and jokes that weren’t funny.

I did enjoy how Jerry, played by Jeremy Renner, essentially turned into his Hawkeye character from the Marvel movies every time someone chased him, but these scenes went a bit over the top and didn’t come off as having any grounding in real life.

“Tag” doesn’t have much of a trajectory, either, although Jerry’s wedding does provide a destination of sorts for an end game.

I also wished the movie had dealt more with what the game meant to the men and how it affected the lives of those around them, such as their wives and employers. An emotional hard right turn at the end feels tacked on and comes too late to give the movie depth.

Still, even though I didn’t out and out like “Tag,” I can’t write it off, either. There are some fun moments and it looks like the actors enjoyed themselves. That can be infectious, as the nearly constant laughter coming from some members of the audience at the screening I attended suggests.

Plus, “Tag” did get me thinking about the baseball matches of my youth. I wonder what Steve, Jack and Brian are up to, and if they’d be game for a reunion of the Big Red Machine?