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Stars: Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Annabelle Wallis,. Rashida Jones, Isla Fisher

Director: Jeff Tomsic

Since the original true-life story about a group of friends from Spokane, Washington - who played a lunatic game of Tag for 20 years and inspired this movie - first appeared in The Wall Street Journal rather than, say, National Inquirer in January 2013, serious seekers of cinematic subtext might well expect another po-faced-to-the-point-of-cumulative-pomposity offering on the lines of Spielberg's The Post.

Happily, they would be wrong.

Thanks to Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen's gag-ridden screenplay, a director (Jeff Tomsic) who patently knows his farce from his elbow and a classy cast happy to go to any lengths to raise a laugh, Tag delivers a high-laugh, low-taste comedy that - should AMPAS finally decide to award an Oscar for Best Worst Taste movie - would walk off with the Golden Statuette.

The gang may now be adults but, fortunately, totally fail to behave as such when they embark on the mad mission finally to tag their one member - Jereny Renner - who has never been tagged over the years.

Naturally the crazy taggers believe they will win, if for no other reason, Renner is preparing for his wedding day.

Wrong! Renner sees them coming, plunging his adversaries - who are accompanied by a female Wall Street journalist - into a near non-stop deluge of comic chaos that left my ribs aching and made Carry On comedies tame by comparison.

Even our own Carry On farces might have thought twice about going after low laughs from a fake birth and miscarriage- -but here it works (tastelessly but unfortunately none-the-less aptly) in a film which sums itself up with the line 'This is so over the top'.

Tomsic's brisk direction ensures that most of the gags - ranging from a lunatic chase in golf carts to the devastation of an AA (liquor, not cars) meeting being held in a church hit their (admittedly mostly unashamedly low) targets while the hard-working perfectly cast players - Hamm, Johnson, Helms, Fisher, Mann and company - deliver exactly what is needed and, when they smile, deliver an exceptional tribute to American dentistry.

Inevitably the lewd laugh machine fumbles and loses comic momentum at times - but that said, most of the time Tag delivers splendidly.

Alan Frank

USA 2018. UK Distributor: Warner. Colour.
100 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 30 Jun 2018