Ed Helms, Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner star in film that tries and fails to identify the roots of male friendship

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Boys will be boys, which in Hollywood terms means boys will be buffoons. 

“Tag” is centered on a group of friends who go to extreme lengths to carry on a lifelong game of tag, the schoolyard competition where someone is “it” until they make physical contact with another player.

The movie is inspired by a 2013 Wall Street Journal story about a group of grown men still locked in a game of tag from when they were kids that never stopped. But it’s given the full Hollywood treatment, where all behavior is exaggerated, flimsy subplots abound (including one involving a terminal illness) and we’re given constant reminders that everything they’re doing, deep down, is about friendship, man. 

It shouldn’t be that hard — it’s tag, for crying out loud — and you can feel the strain on the script. Only about a quarter of the jokes land, a deadly return rate for a supposed comedy. 

Hoagie (Ed Helms), Callahan (Jon Hamm), Randy (Jake Johnson) and Sable (Hannibal Buress) are the core group of friends, and their mission, as always, is to tag the elusive Jerry (a hilarious Jeremy Renner), who in all their years of playing, has never been “it.” The guys travel to Jerry’s wedding, where they figure he’ll be a sitting duck to be tagged, but Jerry has a complex plan in place to keep his winning streak alive. 

Since that’s not enough to sustain a movie, Callahan and Randy are given an old flame to fight over (Rashida Jones plays the object of their affection), Hoagie is paired with an overzealous wife who wants to play the game (Isla Fisher), and in one overlong sequence, the characters debate the ethics of waterboarding. Yikes.

A documentary about the real-life group of friends would have been more fun, and much easier to believe.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

'Tag'

GRADE: C

Rated  for language throughout, crude sexual content, drug use and brief nudity

Running time: 100 minutes

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