Editor’s Note: This review was originally published on June 19, 2018, and was rewritten on Sep 25,2018 for editorial purposes.
I’ll admit, when writing a review, I like to take a glance at what others are saying to get a feel for a general consensus. I want to know if I’m in the minority or the majority with my opinions, I’m not sure if it's insecurity or self-recognition, but it's sort of a habit of mine when critiquing a film. However, sometimes I’ll write a review without this sort of system that I’ve put in place, and what occurs is usually a difference of opinion, while someone is making a great argument, I wouldn’t secede my opinion to theirs. On a rare occasion I will read a review after I’ve pleaded my case, and that will review will spark a fire in my mind that seemingly alters my entire opinion, because of how good the argument is, therefore changing my opinion.
It’s something of an audible if you will, in which I suddenly have a change of heart because someone else has laid out a path of reasoning for their subjective claim and it's a line of thought that resonates with me, and more often than not, frustrates the hell out of me. It’s something of a stigma in which I feel compelled to rewrite the review entirely and reapply my criticism for a different opinion.
Though this happens increasingly rarely as my taste evolves alongside my ideological beliefs, “Tag” was one of the few films this year that I saw and initially enjoyed; I described it as both a funny film and a heart-filled message, but soon after that I read a review whose author will remain unnamed, but least to say, it modified my opinion. I attempted to neglect my yearning for course correction, but when I sat down with my parents to rewatch the film, the laughs were stifled. The jokes rarely connected with much effect, and I began to see through the facade of free-willing freedom exercise and zeroed in upon the sheer amount of white privilege being exhibited at will.
It occurred to me that maybe I got this one wrong, maybe my opinion has changed. It’s a natural course of progression, especially when I, myself, am evolving into who I intend to be for the remainder of my lifetime, internally. So, to re-summarize a bit, “Tag” is a comedy directed by Jeff Tomsic from a script that Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen very loosely adapted from a feature story in the Wall Street Journal. The story was about a group of white male friends that had been playing the same game of tag for more than thirty years.
The film attempts to provide this heart-swelling message of remaining a kid, maintaining that child-like ambition for adventure, but it gets lost in the transitions of this twisting narrative that takes competitivity to an outrageous extreme, especially when it comes to the one who remains tagless, Jerry (Jeremy Renner). He’s a guy who grew up to become someone of exceptional talent when it comes to this game, almost making it seem that he should have been involved with the military or something. His sequences of action in which the group attempts to conquer the impossible are narrated by himself. Providing a Sherlock Holmes-like design in which he predicts every moment for the audience. Breaking down his friend's movements and the psychological weaknesses that he exploits to his benefits. Narratively speaking, the character provides an amount of heart to the film for what he stands for as if he’s the last stitch of childhood.
One that has played the game so well, and so competitively, that he finds himself symbolizing the one who has been absent the most from these men’s lives. Helms’ character discusses this when he talks about how the game is a way for them to stay a part of each other’s lives. Keeping them together, except for the man who seems to be untaggable. This sounds like something that has the potential to be a family-friendly variant on past comedic expose, but it's not exactly family-friendly. The language is vulgar; the over-the-top violence is near idiotic and a bit crude as well. It’s confusing as to who this film is for, but when you learn, to no surprise, that most of the real-life men being depicted here are white.
Each of them has their successes in life too, like Bob (Jon Hamm) whose CEO of a fortune 500 company. At the beginning of the film, he’s being interviewed by a journalist from the Wall Street Journal. In the midst of this conversation about the integrity of his company, Hoagie (Ed Helms), who's disguised himself as a janitor by getting hired by the Bob’s (Jon Hamm) company, interrupts their discussion by obnoxiously cleaning the office. Loudly banging trash cans and erupting with noise, till finally Bob (Jon Hamm) politely asks him to leave, only to learn that his friend is “it.” The game begins from there on, and our journalist acts as our expositional vacuum in which we are fed the backstory through her. The secrets, the stories behind specific character interactions, and the constant feed of information from the shared childhoods of these men.
The film is heavy on that facet, over-handing its information in this lazy and vulgar celebration of white male American dumbness, and I say that as a white male American. How are past is constructed of frat kids marching around campuses cheering out: “No means Yes, Yes means anal.” Or that of the “Jackass” series or any of these predominantly white acts of idiocy that if carried out by African Americans would be seen as, well something not as “friendly.” You get the idea as to why this film can be a bit of a cringe-fest with this perspective becomes evident, right?
The weirdest part about it all though is that the funniest parts of the film come from the only black cast member in the film, Hannibal Buress. He’s relaxed and even relatable, pointing out certain hypocrisies that make the black community look at white youth as “crazy folk.” It’s a very asinine film to watch, though it has its fair share of complementary elements, the actors are at no fault here. Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Renner, and Jake Johnson are doing their best here. They and Annabelle Wallis have some charming moments, but the characters they depict do them no service here. The one’s apart of the storytelling, thinking this it is what we, as Americans, need to see on the big screen, they are the ones at reprehensible odds for the film’s production.
I am not re-writing this review to say that if you enjoyed “Tag” your wrong, or that the film is racist per say. It’s more of the fact that I was persuaded to re-envision the film, and through the keyhole that I am viewing, “Tag” is nothing more than a love letter to white hypocrisy. Demonizing then excusing, acting as if when we commit these acts of stupidity it's that of a kids being kids, but if the skin color is shaded, it's an act of immaturity or delinquency. To be frank, this seems more like something designated for FOX news viewers than anyone else.