The high school reunion film genre has been so flooded with entries that it’s reached the point of being nothing short of played out, so any new entry needs to justify its existence by offering some kind of unique spin on the usual, or at least by featuring characters that transcend the normal archetypes. Writer-director Jamie Linden fails on both counts in his 10 Years and seems to think that the film’s all-star cast compensates for those deficiencies. It doesn’t. No matter how much you love Channing Tatum, Aubrey Plaza, Anthony Mackie, Chris Pratt, Ari Graynor, or any of the other notables who turn up here, there’s no getting around the simple, basic fact that Linden’s movie doesn’t tell a story. It merely brings to life the world’s least interesting reunion, featuring a swath of staggering dullards played by talented people.
Tatum and company play suburban high school classmates reuniting a decade after graduation. His Jake arrives with serious girlfriend Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Channing’s real-life wife) but finds himself confronted with ex-love Mary (Rosario Dawson). Pratt’s Cully is married to Graynor’s Sam, and bent on apologizing to the nerds he picked on back in the day. Mackie is the proudly single Andre, while Plaza plays the wife of Garrity (Brian Geraghty), whom she learns might not be as straight-edge as he seems. Other characters, including those played by Lynn Collins, Justin Long, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac, Scott Porter, and Kate Mara make little substantive impression.
The group assembles for the alcohol-fueled gathering, remembering the good times and confronting the long-simmering tensions and hurts that have crossed the ten-year divide. The movie takes place over the course of the reunion and an after-party, but it’s a strangely formless, a mush of memories, quiet conversations and awkward antics. It’s a shame to waste so many top-notch actors, but Linden doesn’t give them anything to do.
Linden opts for low-key drama, employing an observational approach in his portrait of these everyday twenty-somethings and their mundane reunion. Save for a discordant toilet-papering stunt, and a sprinkling of third act revelations, the movie sticks to its naturalistic mode of guiding you through the run-of-the-mill party. It simply hopes that something said or revealed somewhere in its narrative sticks before we move on to the next part of the ensemble, instead of actively working to infuse any of the characters or situations with real weight and emotion.
In short, 10 Years is predicated on the flawed notion that you’ll want to drop in on its gathering because so many recognizable people are there, but it’s about as much fun as spending 100 minutes in a room full of annoying strangers.
The Upside: There are a lot of terrific actors in this movie and that does count for something.
The Downside: But it’s not enough to overcome an extremely dull, formless screenplay or an absence of compelling drama.
On the Side: Jamie Linden is best known for writing We Are Marshall (which featured Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty) and Dear John, starring Channing Tatum. Oh, and apparently he’s dating Zooey Deschanel, so he’ll survive this negative review just fine.