Usually I try to not give spoilers when I give a movie review. Every once in a while one comes along that’s impossible to spoil. This is one of those movies. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you know the basic plot. A group of five lifelong friends continue to play a game of tag that they began when they were nine into their forties. The game has expanded to the point where as adult who have grown up and moved away from their home town, they now engage in ridiculous acts of subterfuge as they traverse the country attempting to tag each other and they go to all lengths to avoid being tagged and becoming “It”. Because what could be worse than being it? Thus, the characters run around tagging each and all manner of slapstick comedy ensues. That’s it.
That’s the entire film! There’s really nothing more to it than that. It’s pretty dumb.
I loved it.
I can’t tell you that there’s a lot of deep meaning in this. On the surface it looks like a silly middle-aged men being stupid comedy. It’ appears to be a film in the vein of the The Hangover or Game Night. But on a deeper level… well, there is no deeper level. There’s no secret mission that’s going on during the game. There’s no international crime ring that the heroes get mixed up in. There’s nothing but the concept. This is a movie about grown men playing tag. In fact, the places where it tries to fall apart are the places where the movie tries to do too much. There’s a sort of half hearted attempt at a love story going on during the game. There’s a minor subplot of one of the characters having a secret that all but comes out of nowhere in the last 10 minutes or so (not completely out of nowhere. There is a hint to it. You might pick up on it if you’re a big geek for dissecting film narratives like I am… but you probably won’t and seriously… you don’t fucking care. It doesn’t matter). These are the most boring parts of the movie. They slow the film down and they just don’t really matter other than the fact that at some point, someone in a writing room probably said something like “hey, maybe there should be a point to this movie…” That person was wrong. There didn’t need to be a point. There certainly didn’t need to be two points. They seem very out of place.
And there’s a reason for that. The movie is “based on true story” about a group of ten real life friends who actually have been doing this very thing in real life for three decades. And there’s no secret story there. It’s just a bunch of friends basing their continued friendship around something that is fundamentally ridiculous. That was the story when the Wall Street Journal first reported on them five years ago, and that should have been the story today. It’s just a fundamentally interesting thing. It didn’t need any more than that.
In a lot of ways this movie has some of the flaws that I talked about in my review of Office Christmas Party. Namely that there are no real characters in it. In fact, it doesn’t even try to pretend it has characters. All of the protagonists just rely on you knowing their personas from other movies. Ed Helms, arguably the lead of the film, is essentially just play Ed Helms… he’s the same quirky middle aged nerd he is in Hangover or any number of other roles. Similarly, Isla Fisher plays his wife, essentially rehashing her character from Wedding Crashers. John Hamm is playing “generic rich business man,” basically a slightly nicer and cleaned up version fo Don Draper. Jake Johnson basically walked off the set of The New Girl and into this movie and just stayed in character, but took advantage of the R rating to make a bunch of weed jokes. Hannibal Burress is playing Hannibal Burress… or really a toned down version fo Hannibal Burress that represents how white people probably see him. And finally Jeremy Renner is playing Hawkeye or the version of Jason Bourne that wasn’t Matt Damon. Yes… I realize that Hawkeye Bourne (yes, I know the character’s actual name was Aaron Cross. But I don’t care and neither do you) is sort of out of place in a movie like this as he is more of a superhero than a slapstick comedy character. Yes, the movie realizes this too. No one fucking cares. He’s just Hawkeye Bourne inserted into a slapstick comedy… fucking deal with it. (Seriously… someone else go watch this movie just so we can talk about this).
It’s dumb. I loved it.
It works. It shouldn’t work. But it just does. There’s no deeper message. There’s not really any character development. And the places that it tries to do these things are… really dumb. But this is a perfectly fun way to spend an evening turning off your brain and watching something dumb but fun. Also, it has an amazing soundtrack, mostly full of a lot of late 80s, early 90s hip-hop. There’s no obvious reason for this. I’m pretty sure the film was scored by someone who just said “you know what, i’m in the mood for some Tribe Called Quest, Ahmad and Ice T. I’m just gonna toss this track right here. That’s right, I am a nightmare walkin’, psychopath talkin’!” Sometimes that’s just what you need.
★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 five stars)