One of the worst crimes a film critic can commit is to suggest an entirely different movie that the film-maker should really have made instead of the one under consideration. Why wasn't Casablanca set in a gas station near Cleveland? The Godfather would have been better as a musical. Those sorts of things.
The makers of Tag work with an interesting premise. Over the space of 20 years, a group of men from Washington State really did play out an extended game of tag. For one month a year, they would, sometimes under elaborate disguises, do everything possible to pass the taint of being "it" on to their lifelong chums. Putting that together with this cast – Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Isla Fisher – suggests a city-swapping, slickly designed confection in the style of Steven Soderbergh.
We can fantasise. Debut director Jeff Tomsic has, instead, gone for something closer to The Hangover. The film kicks off with Dr Ed Helms (an actual Hangover alumus) securing a job as cleaner at Hamm's swanky insurance firm. As the former Don Draper is being interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter (Annabelle Wallis), Ed bursts in and attempts to tag him.
Hatch a scheme
When they’ve all calmed down, Ed and Jon reunite with other players and hatch a scheme to finally tag the greatest player of them all. He is played by Jeremy Renner and his every move – slick martial arts, rapid acrobatics – is shot in the style of an Eau de Cologne commercial that thinks it’s a spy movie.
You get the sense that the film-makers have sketched out the characters on the back of a cocktail napkin after too much gin and not enough tonic. There are women in the film, but none has anything you could call a personality: Fisher is wasted as a “feisty” girlfriend; Wallis’s role is so anaemic you forget she exists even when she’s talking (which doesn’t happen that often).
Raising an ironic eyebrow as only he can, Hamm probably comes off best, but even he gets suffocated by a sentimental denouement that makes the terrible mistake of playing it straight. I prefer my film.