Sometimes the most intellectually lacking but fun movies can deliver the most profound message.

Tag is a crass, dumb, typical summer comedy that delivers in the end. Based on the true story of a group of friends who keep a childhood game of tag going across decades, it offers gut-busting gags in some instances and significant lulls in others.

When it works, it takes the audience into Hangover territory with laughs that arrive unexpectedly and leave too quickly.

When it lags? It’s more like Hangover III, when the laughs can’t come soon enough.

Hoagie (Ed Helms) arrives at his buddy Bob’s (Jon Hamm) company to renew the yearly game of tag they and their friends play every May.

He makes Bob “it” and promptly convinces him they need to go pick up two of their other friends, Sable (Hannibal Buress) and Chilli (Jake Johnson) to go after their own personal white whale — Jerry (Jeremy Renner), the only guy with a perfect record of never having been “it” in their little game.

Hoagie interrupts an interview between Bob and Rebecca, a Wall Street Journal reporter, and invites her along to document the story and serve as the audience’s guide.

Jerry has a reputation for going feral when cornered in the game, always managing to escape any given situation where his friends have a shot at jeopardizing his record.

This year is different, however, as Jerry is about to tie the knot. They know where he’ll be and when, and along with Hoagie’s wife, Anna (the comedically unhinged Isla Fisher), and Rebecca, they set off for the wedding in their Washington state hometown.

There, they concoct unusual and sometimes hilarious ways to pin down Jerry, who is pretty much a tag ninja — stealthy, clever and ruthless.

It’s also where screenwriters Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen, along with director Jeff Tomsic, making his feature-film debut behind the camera, enjoy most of their success.

The audience is rarely able to discern what is real in this game, right down to Jerry’s wedding, introducing plenty of comedic intrigue.

It’s also where they get to the film’s heart, which is a message of friendship. Acquaintances are easy to find in everyday life.


Not so much.

He has a cast that willingly and gleefully pulls off this caper. Fisher fully inhabits every scene she appears in.

While Helms, Johnson and Buress are no strangers to comedy, Hamm and Renner aren’t as well known for it.

Yet they succeed famously.

They represent the heart of a film that’s mostly mindless summer fun.

George M. Thomas can be reached at