The Game Is On | Episode 97

Posted June 15, 2018

It was Ben Franklin or George Bernard Shaw or someone who said, "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." Luckily, this also happens to be a Be Reel tailor-made genre!

On today's show, Chance and Noah review "Tag," "Game Night" and the classic "Clue" as we look at adults refusing to grow out of their childlike need to play games. As it happens, this genre is also a great referendum on both the legacy and current health of the broad comedy. When it comes to playing a crew's handsome guy, is a straight Kyle Chandler ultimately funnier than a goofy Jon Hamm? And who is 2018's Chevy Chase heir apparent: Jason Bateman or Ed Helms? And at the 21-minute mark, we welcome Joe Tombari, member of the real-life friend group who inspired "Tag" onto the show to shed a little light on having one's life adapted for the screen. Play on, friends!

* * *

-review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer

Tag is a movie with every reason to work. It fields a cast that's talented in a half-dozen different styles of comedy, and with a premise that's destined to keep the likes of Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson, Isla Fisher, and Jeremy Renner neck deep in things to do on screen. Indeed, this somehow, some-way, based-on-a-true-story studio comedy undulates pretty frenetically between working and almost working.

The way its script further gamifies a true story that already hinges on a game helps as well. In the Tag universe, five friends have been playing this same continuous playground game for two decades, traveling around the country to tag each other during the month of May. But their friend Jerry (Renner) has never been "it."

This is the year they'll finally get him, this parade of stereotypes decides. So the suburban, polo-wearing Helms character, the dashing, morally corrupt Hamm character, the angry and stoned Johnson character and the bizarre, witty Burress character resolve to tag Jerry once and for all. (Jerry is a coiffed jock in a leather jacket with a bone structure aligned to the golden ratio, if you thought maybe he didn't fit a stereotype too.)

But the boys — and by "boys," we mean 40-year-old men — need a running start. They begin by chasing down each other for the film's first half-hour, and it's a mighty slow climb. You get the sense director Jeff Tomsic is running into a problem of stretching this very direct and simple premise to the 100-minute mark of what could easily be an 80-minute movie. It's not until the fellas actually start trying to entrap Jerry that the film's action really revs. And it does so pretty cleverly in the form of clairvoyance on the part of the mythologically gifted tag player. Jerry enters something resembling Sherlock's "mind palace" in his ability to thwart his lifelong friends charging at him, hands outstretched.

But it's also at this point in the movie where the script suddenly feels familiar with the characters, and it's a bit inexplicable that it takes nearly an hour for Tag to realize Hamm should play vain, Johnson should play shaggy and loud, and Burress should be allowed to do whatever he wants.

When the game is in full swing, give the movie credit for having escalated so wildly. One Guy Ritchie-esque action sequence tops the last, and the movie is dancing all over the line between what's real and what's been fabricated by Jerry will go avoid being "it." Jake Johnson's Chilli insists the whole wedding is a "Truman Show" setup conjured up by Jerry. In this stage of hopelessly outgunned people plotting against utter absurdism, the movie graduates from passable to highly watchable.

Of course, when Tag turns the corner one more time — into sentiment and the theme that's been barrelling toward you the whole time of "we did this to bring us closer together" — it's hard to reconcile some of the incredibly dark but unexplored circumstances the movie has put its man-children in. They've crashed an AA meeting, talked shit about a potential miscarriage, and ruined a few old relationships. It's dissonant to suggest this was all in good fun when the peak of the movie’s comedy was skidding near the edge of what people will laugh at.  

I'll save the final rating for the podcast, but you can probably hazard a good guess. An uneven romp with some great individual bits and some impressively stylized slapstick, Tag deserves one last shout-out for having its women characters be game for all this madness as well. Podcast review, featuring a real neat special guest who's actually good at tag, is on the way!

Chance d43ba60f826c7e3ff3f61eff155c145731209ae51f7ac455a2ed7c05138c0986


Technical quality
Entertainment value
Noah 606ff8e5e06afdd7cb15bea0b81ec00cb6a381d8d0ee86ce471744515a0e6c0d
Tag poster
Game night poster
Clue poster


All The Movies We've Reviewed

101 Dalmatians
10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Things I Hate About You
127 Hours
22 Jump Street
47 Meters Down
A Dangerous Method
A Few Good Men
Air Force One
A League of Their Own
Alien 3
Alien: Covenant
Alien: Resurrection
American Animals
American Hustle
American Made
American Psycho
American Splendor
A Simple Plan
A Single Man
Atomic Blonde
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
AVP: Alien Vs. Predator
Baby Driver
Baby Mama
Bad Company
Bad Lieutenant
Bad Moms
Bad Santa
Basic Instinct
Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Beasts of No Nation
Beauty And The Beast
Before Sunrise
Behind Enemy Lines
Black Hawk Down
Black Mass
Black Panther
Blade Runner 2049
Bleed For This
Body Heat
Boogie Nights
Bridge of Spies
Bull Durham
Call Me By Your Name
Captain Fantastic
Catch Me If You Can
Chariots Of Fire
Chasing Amy
Child's Play
Christmas Vacation
Cinderella Man
Con Air
Cool Runnings
Crazy Rich Asians
Crimson Tide
Danny Collins
Dante's Peak
Dead Poets Society
Deep Blue Sea
Deep Impact
Deja Vu
Demolition Man
Dirty Dancing
Donnie Brasco
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot
Dude, Where's My Car?
Easy A
Eddie The Eagle
Ed Wood
Employee of the Month
Erin Brockovich
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Event Horizon
Everybody Wants Some!!
Executive Decision
Ex Machina
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Fatal Attraction
Field Of Dreams
Finding Forrester
For Love Of The Game
Friday Night Lights
Game Night
Gangs of New York
Garden State
Gone Girl
Gone In Sixty Seconds
Grosse Pointe Blank
Hail, Caesar!
Half Baked
Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
Head of State
He Got Game
Hocus Pocus
Hollywood Ending
Hot Tub Time Machine
How High
Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Ingrid Goes West
Inherent Vice
Inside Man
Inside Out
In The Land Of Women
In The Line of Fire
Into The Wild
I, Tonya
Jaws: The Revenge
John Wick
Jurassic Park III
Jurassic World
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Kill Bill, Vol. 1
King Cobra
Kingdom Of Heaven
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Lady Bird
La La Land
Leave No Trace
Less Than Zero
Lethal Weapon
Little Miss Sunshine
Love & Mercy
Mad Max: Fury Road
Matchstick Men
Midnight Special
Million Dollar Arm
Mission: Impossible
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Mission: Impossible II
Mission: Impossible III
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Mississippi Grind
Mo' Better Blues
Mom and Dad
Money For Nothing
Moonrise Kingdom
Mr. Mom
Murder at 1600
My Cousin Vinny
National Lampoon's Vacation
Never Say Never
Ocean's Twelve
Old School
One Hour Photo
Open Water
Orange County
Out of Africa
Part of Me
Peter's Friends
Phantom Thread
Picture Perfect
Practical Magic
Public Enemies
Purple Rain
Raising Arizona
Red Dragon
Red Eye
Red Sparrow
Remember The Titans
Reversal Of Fortune
Run All Night
Save The Last Dance
School Ties
Scream 2
Simply Complicated
Sleepaway Camp
Small Soldiers
Snakes On A Plane
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Southside With You
Space Jam
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
State and Main
Step Up
Steve Jobs
Sweet Home Alabama
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Addams Family
The Big Chill
The Big Sick
The Bling Ring
The Brady Bunch Movie
The Campaign
The Cell
The Cloverfield Paradox
The Color of Money
The Disaster Artist
The End of the Tour
The Family Man
The Fast and The Furious
The Fighter
The Flintstones
The Fly
The Fugitive
The Fundamentals of Caring
The Hateful Eight
The Holiday
The Hours
The Hunt For Red October
The Illusionist
The Indian In The Cupboard
The Insider
The Judge
The Jungle Book
The Last of the Mohicans
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
The Martian
The Matrix
The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Revolutions
The Meg
The Mexican
The Mighty Ducks
The Mission
The Mosquito Coast
The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Natural
The Negotiator
The Nice Guys
The Night Before
The Pagemaster
The Perfect Storm
The Poseidon Adventure
The Prestige
The Queen
The Recruit
The Revenant
The River Wild
The Royal Tenenbaums
The Rules of Attraction
The Shallows
The Sixth Sense
The Social Network
The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three
The Truman Show
The Watch
The Witches of Eastwick
This Is Where I Leave You
¬°Three Amigos!
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Tropic Thunder
Van Wilder
Varsity Blues
V For Vendetta
Welcome To Me
While You Were Sleeping
White House Down
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Wild Things
Wild Wild West
Win It All
Without A Paddle
Wyatt Earp
Young Adult
Zack and Miri Make a Porno