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Film / Tag

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"This game has given us a reason to be in each other's lives."
"For the entire month of May every year we play tag, and you never know when someone’s going to pop up. Our buddy, Jerry, he’s the best that ever played, and now he wants to retire. This is the year we get Jerry."
Hogan "Hoagie" Malloy

Tag is a comedy film released in 2018. It stars Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson, Isla Fisher, and Leslie Bibb.

The story revolves around a group of five childhood friends who are engaged in a decades-long game of Tag. Each goes to absurd lengths to catch his friends by surprise and practically no time or place is off limits. They are thrown for a loop, however, when they hear that the fifth member of their group, who has never been tagged, might not be interested in playing the game anymore.

Based on a True Story of ten men who really do dedicate the month of February to play a game of Tag that is now in its third decade.

Tag contains examples of the following:

  • The Ace: Jerry is in incredibly good shape, able to effortlessly defend himself from all of his friends attacks as well as plan out elaborate traps for everyone, runs a successful gym business, and is so loved by his community that when local police see Jerry fighting Hoagie disguised as an old woman, their immediate reaction is that the old woman must have done something wrong.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Hoagie can't help but burst out laughing when Chilli uses comforting him at his father's funeral as a way of making him "it".
  • Adrenaline Time:
    • Done mostly with Jerry, as he proceeds to avoid his friends while offering a voiceover Sherlock Scan analyzing their weaknesses and explaining his strategy.
    • Parodied in one scene where Jerry tries to escape through a door only to find it blocked by Sable sitting on a chair. Cue an Adrenaline Time shot of Sable eating a potato chip while pondering the meaning of the word "bi-weekly".
  • And the Adventure Continues: The film ultimately concludes with Jerry noting there's 5 minutes left in May, and a frantic chase sequence through the hospital as everyone tries to avoid being "It" at the end of the month.
  • Arc Words: "We don't stop playing because we grow up; we grow up because we stop playing". There's even a Running Gag of different characters arguing about who said it first.
  • Audience Surrogate: Rebecca, a Wall Street Journal reporter who follows the group around on their adventure, standing mostly as an observer to the chaos. At several points the movie has to remind us that she is still there, calmly watching them break into Jerry's home and nearly waterboard a gym employee.
  • Based on a True Story: The movie is based on the story of ten men who have maintained their friendship by playing Tag every February for over 20 years.
  • Batman Gambit: Quite a few of Jerry's tag-evasion plans depended on the others reacting exactly the way they did in the film, such as whether Callahan or Chilli would be distracted from their plan to cover the exits by talking to Cheryl Deakins or which one of the group would try to tag him while collecting his tux.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Hoagie reveals he only got everyone together for the game because he is most likely going to die from a tumor on his liver, but this means Jerry swallows his pride and allows himself to finally get tagged, and they change their rules so that their wives can play.note 
  • Breast Attack: Accidentally with a beer can.
  • Chess Master: Jerry. He knows how to exploit all of his friends’ weaknesses to avoid being tagged & employs several elaborate schemes to escape, such as building a replica of Hoagie’s childhood bedroom in his basement - having anticipated that the guys would attempt to use his wedding to tag him, and that they would subsequently break into his house to tag him.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Teased, as the group nearly waterboarded Jerry's gym employee Dave to get more information about how to trap him. They stopped just before actually doing it, and Dave admits he was just holding out for more money, which prompts everyone to wonder how things escalated that way.
  • Comically Missing the Point: After being tagged by Hoagie, Bob tries to continue his interview with Rebecca. This, naturally, is not what Rebecca wants to talk about anymore, leading to this:
    Bob: Hey, sorry about that. So, where were we? Diabetes?
    Rebecca: Explain.
    Bob: Uh, I'm not a doctor, but there are two types. Type 1 is called... Type 1, and Type 2 is more of an adult onset...
  • Crazy-Prepared: Jerry—who has never been tagged—has gone out of his way to figure out every conceivable escape route around him, left equipment caches in secret locations, and trained himself to peak physical condition to dodge any attempt. He even has a replica of Hoagie's childhood bedroom constructed in his basement, as a means of tricking the other players out of his house.
  • Cute But Psycho: Hoagie's wife Anna has a Hair-Trigger Temper and scares the rest of the guys with how seriously she takes the game, even though she is technically not allowed to play. Considering later revelations about Hoagie's health, it's possible that this was a factor.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Both Jerry and Hoagie's significant others, Susan and Anna, avoid being Wet Blanket Wife clichés, and in fact seem about as intense and over-the-top as they are. Anna is perhaps the most hyper-focussed person on the game in the movie, and she's not even an active player. Which makes sense, since it'd be unlikely any of them could maintain a long-standing relationship with someone who wasn't as insane as they are.
  • Doppelgänger Attack: Subverted. While playing their game of Tag in the woods by the golf course, the players seem to be surrounded by multiple copies of Jerry, all eluding them. It turns out, of course, that Jerry merely hired a bunch of local residents to dress up in the same disguise as him, to throw his friends off their game.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Discussed. At the end of the film, Hoagie tells Jerry that by going to such lengths to avoid being tagged, he's missed the whole point of the game: to find a reason to keep coming together, not to constantly try to get away.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • The guys all agree not to ruin the wedding by trying to tag Jerry. Before or after, sure— but not during. That's just dickish.
    • For Jerry and Susan, faking a pregnancy and subsequently faking a miscarriage doesn't cross the line. The rest of the friends feel that maybe that's taking the game a little too far.
  • Fake Pregnancy: Exploited, even weaponized, by Jerry and Susan. She lets it slip that she's pregnant as a way to set up a possible escape route should Jerry become trapped and need to make an exit while the game of Tag is still in play.
  • Flaw Exploitation: Jerry knows his opponents' weaknesses and uses them to his advantage. This includes allowing himself to appear to be vulnerable in front of Bob (knowing Bob's arrogance and desire to get the glory to himself) and inviting the former love interest of both Bob and Chilli to his wedding (causing them to both be distracted by the renewed Love Triangle).
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Hoagie hiding the fact that he might not make it for next season can be inferred from the fact that not only was he the one to get his friends together to tag Jerry but Jerry himself never once bragged about retiring from the game as Hoagie had stated much earlier.
    • Furthermore, after being tagged, Bob comments that Hoagie seems to have lost weight, which Hoagie quickly brushes off. Weight-loss is a symptom of certain types of chemotherapy.
    • While explaining to Bob, he says they either tag Jerry or they die. When Bob questions him, he hastily adds "eventually" but there is a noticeable hesitation before he brings up death.
    • Hoagie also stated to Chilli that he’d been experimenting with medicinal marijuana.
    • Also, Lou says that in exchange for his silence, Jerry promised to let him play Tag next season. That contradicts what Hoagie claimed about Jerry retiring from Tag; an early hint he lied.
  • Freak Out: When Hoagie finds out Susan faked a miscarriage to allow Jerry to escape, he goes berserk and trashes the group's hideout before angrily declaring that Jerry has beaten them.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The moment Susan and Jerry’s backs are turned to the rest of the guys following her apparent miscarriage, you can see that she’s actually smiling - giving away that it’s another rouse for Jerry to avoid being tagged.
  • Gallows Humor: The guys continue playing Tag even as the situation gets more and more inappropriate, although they all generally take things in stride. Hoagie gets tagged at his father's funeral, and the group even tries ambushing Jerry at an AA meeting. Although most of the guys think that Jerry and Susan faking a pregnancy and later a miscarriage just to avoid being tagged was out of line.
  • Gender Flip: The real-life reporter for the Wall Street Journal who chronicled the story of the men playing Tag for 30 years was a man named Russel Adams. In the movie, it's a woman named Rebecca Crosby, played by Annabelle Wallis.
  • Girls Have Cooties: Invoked. The rules of the game include a "No Girls Allowed" amendment because the players were children when they formalized the game.
  • Heel Realization: Jerry realizes that he was so obsessed with his perfect record that he ended up mistreating his friends, as instead of being in the back of the wedding ceremony they should have been standing next to him. Hoagie later tells him that despite never being tagged, he missed the point of the game in that it was supposed to bring everyone closer, and all he did was run from them.
  • Heroic RRoD: After his final attempt to tag Jerry fails, Hoagie falls unconscious and has to be rushed to hospital. One of the doctors outright states that, given the condition he's in, Hoagie should never have been as active as he was throughout the film.
  • Hypocrite: Jerry and Susan try to judge Hoagie and the others for trying to tag him during the wedding and say it's crossing the line. Bob and Chilli rightly point out that they crossed a very large line when Susan lied about being pregnant and even faked a miscarriage in order to make sure Jerry wasn't tagged, so they have no right to claim the moral high ground.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: The gang start to skirt some moral boundaries the longer the game goes on - Hoagie and the rest of the guys almost waterboard someone, whilst Jerry and Susan fake a miscarriage.
  • Last-Name Basis:
    • Kevin Sable is only ever referred to by his last name.
    • Bob Callahan is frequently referred to by his last name, mostly by the guys.
  • Leeroy Jenkins:
    • Chilli rushes headlong into any situation without much thought, even if he's not it. Jerry can easily avoid his tag attempts.
    • By the time of the wedding, Hoagie is so determined to tag Jerry that he just sprints down the aisle in the middle of the ceremony, intent on tagging Jerry whilst he’s preoccupied with getting married.
  • Motivational Lie: Hoagie lied to the others that Jerry was retiring so they would put their all into his, most likely, last game as he has liver cancer.
  • Mood Whiplash: The Reveal that Hoagie is dying of liver cancer near the end of the movie brings the mood down hard. The rest of the runtime is basically just trying to make the audience feel better about what they've been told with more jokes and a heartwarming chase sequence.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: A game of tag played over decades with precise planning, tag-team swapping, and Sherlock Scan all taken deadly serious by all involved.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The guys turn up at Jerry’s wedding, fully willing to stick to the amendment restricting them from tagging Jerry there - it’s only Susan taunting Hoagie by accusing him of playing like a child that spurs him into breaking the amendment.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: The film and its promotional campaign repeatedly declare that it's based on an actual game of Tag that is still being played. The movie ends with a montage of cell phone footage of the real people playing the game and the absurd strategies taken to achieve it (which includes one shower scene and that Hoagie's old woman disguise was recreated from a real event) and eventually the Wall Street Journal article.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • The game has a stack of "amendments" that the five members have come up with to address issues that aren't covered by the original rules - such as one that allows attacks to the ass cheeks but not to the anus.
    • After the group catches up with Jerry a few days before his wedding, Jerry’s fiancé Susan bargains that, in exchange for the group being invited to the festivities, they declare the rehearsal dinner & wedding off limits to the game.
    • At the end of the film, Jerry proposes another amendment, noting that their wives should be actively involved in the game.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Bob and Chilli both have this reaction at the beginning when they realize Hoagie has come to tag them. Sable, by contrast, criticises them for interrupting his psychiatric appointment but otherwise accepts his fate.
    • Everyone bar Chilli reacts this way when Susan suffers her "miscarriage".
    • Everyone bar Jerry reacts this way when Hoagie collapses at the wedding.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Chilli’s first & last names are used once each throughout the entire film.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The film cuts the size of the group of players from ten to five, to keep the cast at a manageable size.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Susan suffers a possible miscarriage, Jerry's concern for her puts his friends in a state of confusion when they wonder if he's just acting to avoid being tagged, or if she is actually in trouble. When they offer to help, he angrily tells them to just stay away, "this isn't a fucking game." It turns out it was, as Susan was just putting on an act to get Jerry out of his predicament of being tagged. She wasn't even pregnant.
  • Properly Paranoid: The group's 30-year Tag game has induced this in most of them.
    • When we first see Sable, he's talking to a psychiatrist about his paranoia and other issues. Just as his psychiatrist tries to reassure him that nobody is out to get him, Hoagie, Bob, and Chilli burst into the room to tag him.
    • Hoagie is quick to suspect that Jerry only invited Cheryl Deakins to the wedding to distract Bob and Chilli. He's right (though Cheryl accepted not for Jerry's sake, but because she really did want to see them).
    • When Susan fakes a miscarriage to get Jerry out of a tight spot, Chilli is the only one who sees through it - the others either believe Jerry outright, or refuse to believe that he'd go that far. Chilli eventually convinces the others to investigate, and it quickly turns out he was right.
    • Played for Drama and subverted at the end of the film when first Chilli, and then Jerry, utterly refuse to believe that Hoagie is seriously ill with terminal liver cancer, thinking it's just another elaborate ruse. Chilli goes as far as accusing the entire hospital of being a set populated with actors.
  • Race Against the Clock: Hoagie gets the group together so they can finally tag Jerry, as Jerry has seemingly said he plans on retiring from the game this year after he marries on May 31st. It turns out that was a lie, Jerry never said that but Hoagie was hiding that he has cancer of the liver and may not live to the next round.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic:
    • Chilli is shown tagging Hoagie at Hoagie's father's funeral. That actually happened between two of the real players.
    • The fact that Hoagie often uses disguises, specifically Paper Thin Disguises like wigs and fake mustaches, is also something that the real players demonstrated, as seen in the ending montage.
  • Rewatch Bonus: A lot of Hoagie's dialogue (and physical injuries) becomes more prescient upon second viewing when it's known he's dying of cancer. As well, for Anna's total dedication to her husband's cause.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Bob vs Chilli, respectively, for the affections of Cheryl. Bob is the CEO of a large insurance firm, while Chilli is an unemployed stoner who lives with his father. It's noted that Chilli was once successful, but his business collapsed, which is part of why Cheryl finds him attractive.
  • Serious Business: The game of Tag. All of the guys will go to great lengths to tag and avoid being tagged. Eventually discussed in the third act when everybody else confronts Jerry and tell him that the whole idea of making this Serious Business was to find a reason to maintain contact with each other when they went their separate ways and Jerry (who's tactics have become too dickish for them to standasking his fiancée to fake being pregnant complete with faked miscarriage so to keep an "exit ticket" handy comes to mind) is just alienating them.
  • Sherlock Scan: One of Jerry's skills: figuring out not only the best way to avoid getting tagged, but how to trip and toss his buddies at each other to tag themselves. He uses a hyper-awareness that would impress Sherlock Holmes himself.
  • Soft Glass: Subverted. Bob tries to break the window of his conference room with a chair to escape being tagged by Hoagie at the beginning of the film. The chair just bounces off the glass and hits Bob in the face. But played straight with Jerry twice.
  • The Cameo: Brian Dennehy as Chilli's father.
  • The Stoner: Chilli, who is smoking weed in damn near every scene he's in. Jerry, in fact, can tell when he's close just from the smell.
  • Tagalong Kid:
    • Anna isn't allowed to play due to the game's "No Girls Allowed" rule, but she happily helps Hoagie and is, at times, even more hardcore about the game than the actual players.
    • Lou, the bartender in the friends' hometown who desperately wants to be part of their game, but is constantly shut out.
    • As it turns out, Jerry felt this way about his role in the group - that rest of the guys were all closer to one another than to him, which was why he tried so hard to remain untagged for so long. The others point out that this just became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as they'd have likely been closer had he not invested so much time and energy in not getting tagged.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • When Hoagie tries tagging him at his wedding, Jerry & Susan call out the guys for ruining their wedding; it’s promptly pointed out that they don’t have any moral high grounds after faking a miscarriage so Jerry could avoid being tagged.
    • Everyone towards Jerry, as they point out that his attempts to remain untagged for the past 30 years have just alienated him from the rest of the group.