Movies based on true events often tell outsized or “important” stories, ones that either tell some essential story people need to know or which are somehow meaningful to the human experience. The new movie Tag is not one that would fall into any of those categories.
Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms and Jake Johnson play a group of guys who gained prominence years ago when their decade-spanning game of tag came to the public’s attention. The game has kept them connected to each other even as they’ve gotten married and gone about their lives. One thing has eluded them, though: Jerry (Renner) has never been tagged. Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb, Rashida Jones and Annabelle Wallis costar.
The teaser poster really hits the core selling point of the movie – that it’s based on a true story – by stating that outright and even emphasizing it by including “We’re not kidding.” That’s the very definition of “trying too hard.”
A second poster is the same thing, only with the faces of the leading cast at the bottom looking at the camera with various bewildered or amused expressions on their faces.
The first – and only – trailer is preceded by Renner as himself filming a video while in the middle of playing a game of tag with his costars. Once the footage actually starts we get the backstory, that this group of friends has been playing the same game every May for 30 years, with it being the thing that’s kept them connected over all that time. Of course that’s really weird for outsiders, but whatever. Everyone is gunning for Jerry, who’s never been tagged in all that time.
It’s funny enough, certainly appearing better than some of the recent films by the people here. Seeing Renner in a comedy is nice as he’s not usually allowed to be funny, but I’m going to throw flags on the criminal underuse of both Hamm and Isla Fisher. And we’re going to stipulate that the story is only a slightly more socially-acceptable version of hyper-competitive toxic masculinity, no matter how cute it’s dressed up.
Online and Social
The movie’s official website opens with the trailer, also accessible via the “Trailer” button on the splash page and along the top content menu. Also there are sections with a “Synopsis” and a “Gallery” but that’s about it. Strangely, they’re not listed or linked to on the main site but there are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The movie was one of the first to be advertised via Snapchat’s recently-unveiled unskippable six-second video ad units.
Media and Publicity
AS the filmmakers were more than willing to point out repeatedly, this is based on a true story whose history was revisited in features like this on several occasions. That theme was reinforced with a short promo video featuring the real life members of the gang that has kept the game going and showed them watching footage from the movie where their lives are being depicted.
Hamm hit the publicity circuit to talk about the movie, including commenting on Renner’s broken arms and how production accommodated that. The story of Renner’s injury provided a significant hook for the publicity cycle as stories circulated about how CGI had to be used to bring them back to life and the actor himself shared the details in his appearances. Even Fisher had to comment on it while she was doing press. Thankfully Buress was able to avoid the topic when he showed up on “Kimmel.”
For little apparent reason other than there’s a wedding in the movie, the cast crashed a real-life wedding, causing all sorts of chaos and hilarity. The advice Hamm gave Johnson and the rest of the cast to make that work came up at the movie’s premiere.
I’m wondering who the studio thought the audience for this movie would be. All the actors here are very funny in their own right, but a story of a bunch of overgrown manboys who can’t let their childhood game go while letting that game bleed over into every other part of their lives seems….out of touch with the current cultural conversation.
It’s not that the movie doesn’t seem funny; it honestly looks like it has more than a few laughs. But when the only two talking points for the press cycle are “It’s based on a real story” and “Here’s how Jeremy Renner broke his arms,” the underlying weakness of the premise is exposed.
Finally, how do you make a movie with Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb and Isla Fisher and not have them as the focal point of the entire film, much less the marketing? I want to see the movie that has them as the leads.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.