Review: ‘Tag,’ You’re It. Playing the Long Game Into Middle Age.

Review: ‘Tag,’ You’re It. Playing the Long Game Into Middle Age.

His shrink is played by Carrie Brownstein, one of a handful of stellar supporting performers sprinkled into the movie like macadamia nuts in a cookie. Others include Lil Rel Howery as Hoagie’s temporary boss, Rashida Jones as the crush who got away from both Chilli and Callahan, and Nora Dunn as Hoagie’s flirtatious mother. Chilli’s father is played by Brian Dennehy, which also happens to be the name of one of the real-life taggers.

Four of the fictional ones — Chilli, Hoagie, Sable and Callahan (they only call him Bob when they’re teasing him) — head back to Spokane, Wash., where they all grew up, to find Jerry (Jeremy Renner), a fitness guru who is about to get married and who is threatening to quit the game. (They are joined by a Wall Street Journal reporter played by Annabelle Wallis.) At first, Jerry’s fiancée, Susan (Leslie Bibb), looks like a killjoy mom-wife in the “Hangover” vein, but “Tag,” which was written by Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen, subverts that cliché and makes Susan the agent of a singularly nasty and surprising gag.

There are just enough of those — physical, verbal and conceptual — to lift “Tag” above the slough of mediocrity in which big-screen, big-studio comedy seems, at the moment, to be mired. While its humor is generally cautious and its characters a little too insistently likable, the story does wander into a few dark corners of middle age: romantic disappointment; addiction and recovery; the possibility of illness and the inevitability of death.

To say that these matters are handled with a light touch would be to give the film too much credit. It gestures in their direction and then changes the subject, and settles into a soft cushion of masculine sentimentality at the end. But “Tag,” unlike too many of its recent ilk, at least bothers to be a movie, rather than a television sketch distended to feature length. The performers don’t seem to have been shoved in front of the camera and instructed to be funny. They have to work for their laughs, and to find coherence as an ensemble. Mr. Tomsic, a TV journeyman, executes both the dumb pratfalls and the quick banter with discipline and professionalism. Perhaps more than was called for, given that this is a movie about a game that is fun precisely because it requires very little in the way of skill, strategy or brains.

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