It can be tough to stay in touch with friends after college. People scatter, get married, have kids, don’t answer the phone as much. In real life Joe Tombari and his pals figured out a unique way to stay connected, an elaborate game of tag that has kept them in touch—literally—for more than two decades. “The best thing about the game,” he told “The Guardian,” “is that it has kept us in touch over all these years—it forces us to meet and has formed a strong bond between us, almost like brothers.”
A new film starring Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Leslie Bibb, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, and Rashida Jones takes Tombari’s game to an extreme.
For one month of each of the last thirty years Hoagie (Helms), Jerry (Renner), Bob (Hamm), Chili (Johnson) and Kevin (Buress) go to war, playing a game of tag with no rules and no prisoners. The last ‘it” of the season lives in shame for the rest of the year.
The latest game overlaps with the wedding of alpha dog Jerry, the only undefeated player. “He’s the best who ever played,” says Hoagie, “and now he wants to retire and make us all look like fools.” The old friends rally to put an end to Jerry’s winning streak.
The movie takes the real life premise and pushes it to extremes. These competitive fools will stop at nothing—including physical harm—to win. It’s a funny idea that does deliver some laughs but ultimately becomes a one-joke premise tarted up with some mild action, a dollop of psychological warfare, some raunchy humour and even a simulated war crime played for yuks. The bromantic chemistry between the guys is good—and Buress with his non-sequitirs and deadpan delivery steals the show—but the film works best before it overindulges in elaborate set pieces. Hoagie disguised as a woman in an attempt to take Jerry by surprise is funny. Jerry’s booby-trapped forest, à la “Apocalypse Now,” pushes the story too far from the core—a friendly movie about male bonding—and into the realm of the ridiculous.
The movie finishes with clips of Tombari and his pals playing the real-life game and suggests that a documentary might have been just as entertaining as the narrative film.