If there’s an aspect of cinema that’s wonderful, it’s its uncanny ability to reignite feelings of nostalgia and of simpler times when there wasn’t a care in the world. This is a different form of nostalgia I speak of in which a story’s focus is growing up with friends who you’d jump in front of train for. Tag is a perfect example of this – it’s not a reboot or sequel, and it banks on real feelings of nostalgia instead of nostalgic feelings for iconic characters. Tag is a comedy about friendships and how time and distance can be major stumbling blocks towards maintaining those relationships, and it does so by allowing viewers to reminisce about their childhoods.

Directed by Jeff Tomsic (in his feature film debut) and co-written by Rob McKittrick (Waiting… ) and Mark Steilen, Tag is based on a true story and features an extensive cast. Hoagie (Ed Helms), Bob (Jon Hamm), Chilli (Jake Johnson), Sable (Hannibal Buress) and Jerry (Jeremy Renner) are childhood friends who’ve been playing the same game of tag for the last 30 years. Yes, they are all adults who live all over the country and lead their own lives, but every May it’s open season as they continue their epic childhood game. Jerry is the undeniable champion – he has never been tagged. And after he ties the knot with Susan (Leslie Bibb) at the end of May he’s going to retire from tag forever.

With the rest of the crew realizing that their window of opportunity is closing quickly, they form an alliance so that they can reach the top of their own personal Mount Everest. Hoagie serves as the main catalyst and leader, and it’s clear that this is more than a game for him. Hoagie has everything planned out and all he needs is Anna (his wife, played by Isla Fisher), Bob, Chilli and Sable to help with the execution, but even with strength in numbers it seems the odds are in Jerry’s favor. After ambushing Jerry they realize just how much he’s upped his game. Their game makes way for some hilarious circumstances, and in tow is a journalist (Annabelle Wallis) from the Wall Street Journal to document everything.

Tag is light and breezy (a perfect summer entry), and with Hollywood out of ideas this is one of the more original titles in recent years. Tag is a little predictable, but McKittrick and Steilen played up the group’s friendship (which added some depth) while successfully infusing humor that isn’t too crude or crass. Some of the jokes miss, and the physical comedy isn’t anything new or inventive, but overall Tag feels fresh. During the third act things get a little serious and emotional, so it surprisingly has some heart.

I’m assuming that Tomsic is an Office Space fan because he chose to incorporate a classic hip-hop score to enhance the humor. But it works, mainly because I’m a hip-hop fan, especially with songs like The Pharcyde’s “Runnin’,” Ice-T’s “Colors,“ and Beastie Boys’ “Shake Your Rump” dropping in with excellent timing (for a little balance, Danzig’s “Mother” is mixed in). I could’ve done without “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” from Crash Test Dummies but I get it.

Before I forget, the true events aspect is played up before the finals credits roll. Video footage is displayed of the actual men who played their lengthy game of tag. The footage was likely taken with cell phones and handheld cameras and you can visualize how committed these friends were. With it Tomsic is saying these people are physically and emotionally reaching out to their friends in order to galvanize their friendship. Helms, Hamm, Buress, Johnson and Renner might as well be saying, “I love you, man,” instead of, “You’re it,” while they’re chasing each other.

Despite its lighter tone, Tag is a fun reminder of the importance of friendship. It may be one of the most important things in life and this game has prevented these friends from drifting apart. So if you value your friendships, check this out and be ready to think fondly of your relationships with your friends, then and now.

3.5 stars out of 5


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