The True Story Behind ‘Tag’

May 29th, 2018The True Story Behind ‘Tag’


From Book Club to Life of The Party, 2018 has a wide range of comedy movies. None, however, will be unique in the same way as Tag.

The film stars Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson and Hannibal Buress as a group of best friends. During the month of May, these high school buddies play tag. But this isn’t just any old game of tag. The game lasts for the entire month and the players are so dedicated that no occasion is off-limits — not even weddings or funerals. But after 30 years as champion, Renner’s character Jerry announces his retirement. The other four competitors arrange one final game, with the intention of breaking Jerry’s streak and finally tagging him.

While Tag may sound like a genius concept, one could be forgiven for thinking that a month-long game of tag is a far-fetched concept, even for the movies. Ironically, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Tag Is Based On A True Story

TAG movie still
[Credit: New Line Cinema]

Believe it or not, Tag is based on a true story. That’s right: a real-life group of ten friends have been playing tag every February for over 23 years. Whoever is last tagged on February 28th must carry the burden of being “it” for the following year, until the next February.

The “Tag Brothers” first got media attention after The Wall Street Journal published an article about them in 2013. A few months later, player Joe Tombari opened up about the game to The Guardian. Tombari revealed that he and his friends played the game during high school, but it stopped when they all went their separate ways to college. When the group reunited a few years later, they resurrected their game. Tombari spoke about how the game has adapted over the years:

“Now we are grown men, we don’t run like Usain Bolt, so subterfuge and collusion have become our weapons. Eleven months of the year are spent planning. Collaborating with a friend is where the fun is – we can spend hours discussing approaches.”

The most interesting thing about Tombari’s description is that it sounds like he’s describing the film. From the trailer, it’s clear that Tag mirrors real life as we see the group of five friends putting a lot of effort into the planning of their excursion.

Another thing we see in the trailer is how they use the game as a unique way of staying in touch. Nothing — not even geography — can keep them apart. This is also reflective of the true story, as Tombari revealed that February was a competitive month for his high school friends, no matter where they lived in the world.

“I was tagged spectacularly a few years back when a friend popped round to show me his new car. As I approached it, Sean sprang out of the boot where he’d been hiding and tagged me. He’d flown 800 miles from Seattle to San Francisco just to stop being “it” – to shrug off the “mantle of shame”, as we call it.”

Much like in the film, Tombari revealed that he and his friends take the game very seriously — and that no occasion is off-limits.

“Perhaps one of the most unexpected tags was during Mike’s father’s funeral. During the service, he felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to find Joe mouthing, “You’re it.” Afterwards, he said his father would have approved, because he found our game hilarious.”

This scene is also directly adapted in the film, as we see Jake Johnson’s character, Randy, tag Ed Helms’s character, Hoagie, at his father’s funeral.

While Tag already had the potential to be one of this year’s funniest films, the fact that it’s based on a true story makes it even better. The Tag Brothers created a genius new way of staying in touch with their friends, and now they will get to share it with the world.


TAG is available through AMC Theatres On Demand.

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