National Post (Latest Edition) - - POST MOVIES - CHRIS KNIGHT

There’s an in­her­ent silli­ness in the idea of a movie about a game of tag that goes on for 100 min­utes; if it’s not funny, it’s go­ing to get re­ally bor­ing.

But per­haps the only thing stranger is an ac­tual game of tag that lasts for 30 years. That’s the true story be­hind Tag, chron­i­cled in the Wall Street Jour­nal in 2013.

Names and de­tails have been changed — though not, amaz­ingly, the no­tion that you might qui­etly call one player “It” at his fa­ther’s funeral — in this light­hearted romp, full of curs­ing and car­toon vi­o­lence.

Ed Helms stars as Hoagie, one of the more in­tense play­ers in a game that has been go­ing on among five friends since their grade-school days. The rules have evolved, al­though it’s still a “no girls” zone, de­spite side­line as­sis­tance from Hoagie’s wife (Isla Fisher). The game runs for each month of May, af­ter which the loser — there are no win­ners in tag, we’re re­minded, just one loser — has to re­main It for 11 months.

Hoagie’s plan is to round up his fel­low tag­gers — CEO Cal­la­han (Jon Hamm), pot­head Randy (Jake John­son) and mar­i­tally trou­bled Sable (Han­ni­bal Burns) — and go in pur­suit of Jerry (Jeremy Ren­ner), who has never been It.

Ren­ner is per­fectly cast in the role of the ex­treme player, and seems to be dip­ping into his Avengers/Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble/Bourne tool­kit to evade cap­ture. In the hands of di­rec­tor Jeff Tom­sic (mostly known for TV, and it shows), this in­volves a lot of slow-mo­tion run­ning and quick-cut fight­ing, but I’ll be the first to ad­mit that Helms’ goofy mug never gets tire­some.

Writ­ers Rob McKit­trick and Mark Steilen do what they can to es­tro­gen up the screen­play, throw­ing in an old flame (Rashida Jones) and turn­ing jour­nal­ist Rus­sell Adams into Annabelle Wal­lis, who ba­si­cally em­beds her­self with the boys to get the story. And Les­lie Bibb nails the part of Jerry’s ef­fer­ves­cent fi­ancée — we’re never quite sure how for­giv­ing she’s go­ing to be as the tag shenani­gans (tag­nani­gans?) threaten to up­set her per­fect May wed­ding.

But the movie’s charm rests on its mod­est premise. Tag is one of the sim­plest pas­times and among the old­est, al­ready re­ferred to in his­tor­i­cal terms by the 2nd cen­tury Greek scholar Julius Pol­lux. It may even pre­date hu­man evo­lu­tion, if the squir­rels in my neigh­bour­hood are any­thing to go by.

And sure, the film’s mes­sage about the im­por­tance of friend­ship and the value of play may be laid on a lit­tle thick at times. But there’s no deny­ing its in­fec­tious nature. You may even find your­self pat­ting your moviego­ing com­pan­ion on the back as you leave the the­atre. “Thanks for the pop­corn. Also, you’re It.” ∂∂∂1/2

Tag opens across Canada on June 15.


Jake John­son, fore­ground, and Ed Helms, rear, carry the child­hood game of It well into adult­hood, where a great deal of hon­our seems to be at stake.

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