The Best Thing About 'Tag' Is Definitely the Mystery of Jeremy Renner's Arms
It's been a good year for acceptably entertaining studio comedies. Early on there was Game Night, a suburban-antics-gone-wrong action romp with genuinely great performances from the likes of Jesse Plemons and Rachel McAdams. Then came Blockers, which overcame its moralist logline -- a bunch of parents trying to stop their daughters from having sex -- by throwing some nuance on top of the butt-chugging.
Tag, about a group of adult male buddies who have been playing the same game of tag for 30 years, isn't quite in the same class. And yet you may still find yourself entranced by the mystery of Jeremy Renner's arms.
Now we need to *record scratch* *freeze frame* this for just a second, an appropriate thing to do since the movie basically comes close to engaging in that played-out trope. During a chatty appearance on Ellen last week, co-star Jon Hamm explained that Renner broke both of his arms on the third day of production. Instead of taking some time off, Hawkeye, ever the pro, simply wore green-screen casts so his arms could be digitally replaced. Now, that's wild, and immediately necessitates some follow-up questions, all of which are more important than the movie itself.
How did he pull this off? The incident was reported last year, but without specific details. Renner has since clarified to Entertainment Weekly that he was climbing a bunch of chairs for a stunt when the rig broke and he "broke along with it." At first he didn't realize how injured he was and got up to attempt the stunt again. Leslie Bibb, who plays his fiancée, gushed about his relentless work ethic at the premiere: "That nugget broke his arm and pierced his elbow and his wrists in the morning and he went back to work that afternoon. I was really proud of my friend." Nugget seems like the appropriate term to describe these Labrador retriever-esque mindset, and also is in line with Renner's overly enthusiastic social media presence. (You'll recall that Renner has an app dedicated to Jeremy Renner.)
Also, which Tag scenes feature Renner's real arms? Watching the movie, you can't help but treat it as some kind of Zapruder film, analyzing what shots were designed out of necessity to hide his injured limbs, where the CGI was artfully used, and where a stuntman subbed in during the action. Hey, it's more entertaining than the actual plot!
Right, about that: Hamm, Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, and Hannibal Buress play four-fifths of the aforementioned childhood friend group engaged in a game of an endless game of tag that lasts the entire month of May every year and spans across states. Renner rounds out the club as Jerry, the ostensible champion of this endeavor: He has never been "it," presumably thanks to his inexplicable Bond-villain type tactics. (He's apparently a gym rat not, as far as we know, a covert operative.) But Jerry's about to get married, which provides the other guys the perfect opportunity to finally get him. Along the way they all learn lessons about keeping your inner child alive and whatnot.
Mostly Tag is a series of tag-related set pieces that range from mildly amusing to tiring. The actors are all doing appealing riffs on their pre-established personas: Helms is over-eager, Buress gets automatic laughs from his delivery, Hamm is suave, Johnson is a sweetheart in the body of a hot mess. Late in the action, writers Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen try to give the narrative some heart-tugging stakes -- making the case for this tradition being silly but also profound -- but by that point it fails to register as even slightly emotional. Elsewhere, the treatment of more "serious" matters like alcoholism comes off as flippant.
Thus, you are left staring at Renner's arms. Here are some things you might notice:
• Renner spends a lot of the movie with his hands clasped behind his back in a kind of power stance. This is played off as a signal that his character is poised under pressure, but you know better. It's because he broke his damn arms.
• What about all those shots of Renner in close-up, taunting the other men on video screens of various sizes? Seems like a pretty convenient way to avoid showing the fact that his arms are relatively immobile.
• The same can be said for when he's stationed behind a bar with other people carefully positioned to block everything but his head.
• Also you might want to pay especially close attention to the very obvious presence of a stunt double in one action sequence where Helms' Hoagie -- yes, his character has the name of a sandwich -- tries to ambush his target in a mall and Jerry attacks back with by wildly swinging a handbag around.
According to statements from Renner and director Jeff Tomsic, CGI was only minimally employed, so Hamm's talk show anecdote perhaps overstated how Grand Moff Tarkin this whole thing was going to get. And, to be fair, the arms-breaking chair stunt that led to this is not very noticeable. Still, anything to do with Jeremy Renner's arms is a more compelling diversion than the rest of Tag.