Grown men behave like children in TAG, but that's exactly the point. Dominic Corry meets the cast.

Into the glorious tradition of films featuring grown men behaving like children comes Tag, a new star-studded comedy that has one key difference: it's based on a true story.

Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress and Jake Johnson play five childhood friends who, for one month every year, participate in a ongoing game of what in New Zealand we call tiggy, but which is known in America as tag.

The guys all live in different cities throughout the States, so the idea is to surprise each other when they least expect it. Whoever is "it" at the end of the month must suffer the indignity until the following year.


"There's something really beautiful underneath this big silly premise, which is, staying connected to people that you care about," Helms tells TimeOut. "I think it's easy to be out of touch with someone for a really long time and say, 'It would be weird if I reached out'. But it really wouldn't! I mean, how great would you feel if someone from your past just sent you a text, 'Hey I've been thinking about you, I kinda miss you, I just hope you're doing great'? We could use a lot more of that."

The film was inspired by a 2013 Wall Street Journal article about a group of friends who, at the time of this article being published, had been playing tag in this manner for 23 years.

They have continued to do so since then.

"We make the point in the movie: you don't stop playing because you get older, you get older because you stop playing," Jon Hamm says.

"The idea of play, the idea of engaging in life in a humorous way or a fun way or a playful way, is I think that thing that keeps us young. And having met these guys [who originated the game], they are, and it's different from being irrationally immature. They're just fun guys; who doesn't wanna be around that energy? That's what makes life enjoyable."

Jeremy Renner's character has never been tagged, and the film follows his friends' plan to use his impending nuptials as an opportunity to finally do so. Renner is hilarious in the role, which marks something of a change of pace for the actor best known for humourless performances in Arrival and The Hurt Locker.

"Comedy is difficult, but it's fun as well," Renner says. "It requires a lot of energy, in a different way to something like Wind River with a lot heavier content. You just go in and have fun with it. Especially in the way this was, there's a lot of funny people around you and it's also based in character. So it's not like a television show with set-up, joke set-up, joke, which I despise. This is all character stuff, it was a lot of improv so it all feels very genuine."

Scene from Tag
Scene from Tag

Despite initial appearances, TAG isn't a total sausage fest. Aussie Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers) plays Helms' wife, and Leslie Bibb (Iron Man) plays Renner's fiance, two characters who become more involved in the game as the film progresses.

Annabelle Wallis (The Mummy) and Rashida Jones (Parks & Recreation) also appear prominently.

When TimeOut asks each cast member what their favourite childhood games were, it's naturally Fisher's that comes closest to what we played in New Zealand in the 1980s.

"We did chasey," says Fisher. "Then kiss-chasey. We got big into Connect Four and cards. Then when WWF wrestling became big on TV, we just used to wrestle, me and my brothers."

"I liked a good duck duck goose," says Bibb. "Red light, green light, was a big one, I love that. Which is kind of a version of tag, it's a more static tag. And there's a basketball game we used to play called horse. After dinner we'd go out and play horse."

"I loved playing wiffle ball," says Hamm. "I don't know if you guys had that in New Zealand? It's like baseball but the ball is hollow and plastic and you have a plastic bat so if you're a little kid you can swing it. So it was minimal gear required and it was so much fun. Everyone could play it."

"We raced bikes," is Helms' response. "BMX bikes."

Jeremy Renner's answer, on the other hand, suggests he grew up in 1930s New York: "Kick the can is what we played a lot at night in the streets," says Renner. "It was kind of like a tag type of game. It was hiding, and someone would have to come out and kick the can. It was terrifying."

Who: Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Isla Fisher and Ed Helms
What: New comedy film TAG
Where and when: In cinemas from today