Tag (2 stars)

Tag

Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm head up this fitfully amusing but flawed ensemble comedy

As a character who cannot be caught in annual 'tag' bouts between men, Jeremy Renner isn't the most elusive element in this dude-bros romp. Based on a true story, TV director Jeff Tomsic's run-around is fitfully amusing, especially when Isla Fisher has the spotlight; what it isn't, sadly, is fully realised. Lacking the nerve or nous to assert its identity, it slips between slapstick and sentimentality with the theme of men behaving childishly as thin connective tissue.

It's not the fault of the cast, who embrace writers Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen's cookie-cutter characters gamely. Every May, back-slappy businessman Bob (Jon Hamm), geeky Hoagie (Ed Helms), stoner Chilli (Jake Johnson) and Eeyore-ish paranoiac Sable (Hannibal Buress) compete with Renner's Jerry in bruising games of tag, begun three decades back. Butt-punching is involved. But Jerry won't be bested, especially as his wedding approaches, and he pulls out all the stops to humiliate his buddies.

Renner's affectless front and Batman-lite skill-set hint at Tag's core problem: aiming to be grounded and ludicrous simultaneously is a losing strategy. Though Tomsic flirts with Jackass-style physical comedy, he neither summons the verve needed to give that cartoonish physicality free rein, or the smarts to earn its closer-to-the-bone set-pieces, relying instead on low-powered digs at his main men's nice-but-daft immaturity.

The charm Hamm, Helms, Buress and Johnson bring to these feckless ciphers leaves you wondering what they could have done with savvier scripting. But Tag is too blunt for satire and too broad for any emotional purchase, which it strains for at the close. And its mockery of regressive masculinity seems like lip-service alongside its poor treatment of the female characters. While Annabelle Wallis's journalist and Rashida Jones's old-school love interest are clumsily sidelined, the under-utilisation of Fisher's comic rocket-fuel speaks volumes. Fun though it is, Tag struggles to pin down its own potential.

General release from Fri 29 Jun.

Tag

  • 2 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 1h 41min
  • Directed by: Jeff Tomsic
  • Cast: Jeremy Renner, Annabelle Wallis, Isla Fisher

Five friends (Hamm, Helms, Johnson, Buress, Renner) compete every year in a bruising game of tag, begun three decades earlier. Fitfully amusing, but neither grounded enough to be affecting nor ludicrous enough to be genuinely funny, it mostly takes off when Fisher has the spotlight.

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