COMEDY: 1hr 40min
STARRING: Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Isla Fisher, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress
Phone-ethics: from left, Buress, Johnson, Helms, Hamm and Fisher
The nuttiest truth about the Tag express train—nimbly driven by feature-film first-timer Jeff Tomsic—is that it’s based on the Wall Street Journal–reported story of a group of actual childhood friends who’ve played the game for 30 years. As the movie tells it, Hoagie (Helms), Callahan (Hamm), Jerry (Renner), Chilli (Johnson) and Kevin (Buress) set up the ritual at age nine in their home town of Spokane, Washington, and although they’re now scattered throughout the US and, in Hoagie’s case, married (to Fisher’s mad-keen supporter, Anna), when May rolls around, they’re back in the hot seat regardless.
The way these contenders play what Hoagie reverently describes as “the coolest game ever” has to be seen to be believed, and even then I struggled. Not only do they push themselves to thumping physical extremes that would do the Jackass vets proud (as the untouchable, rubbery ninja of the gang, Renner fractured his left wrist and his right elbow during the shoot), but they’re not afraid to screw up and/or to look ridiculous. This isn’t a mere diversion to them, you realise—it’s a life-affirming mindset and a confirmation of solidarity, and in this round, its objective is Jerry, who in 30 years has never felt the sneaky fingers of fate. With Journal reporter Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis) on board, Hoagie, Anna, Callahan, Chilli and Kevin head back to Spokane, where their nemesis, his manically sunny fiancée (Leslie Bibb) and his quicksilver skills are waiting.
If boys being good ol’ boys is your big-screen bliss, this crew is your passport to Happy Hour. They’re fully psyched for every twist, ping-ponging through them all with a fixity of intention that never loses its grip on the absurd. Yes, their man-child antics are an extended one-joker, but these are seriously funny guys and dolls, and their investment in their cuckoo mission becomes a crazy-beautiful badge of honour.