10 Years (***)

Seeking a home somewhere between ‘The Big Chill’ and ‘American Reunion’ (though far superior to its most structurally similar film ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’) in terms of high school reunion flicks, ’10 Years’ manages to be a charmer that succeeds because of the chemistry of its cast. The film is sometimes a bit of a mess, but it’s an enjoyable mess that deftly keeps things from ever getting too heavy or too silly. It’s truly an ensemble piece, though we begin by focusing in on Channing Tatum, who continues his surprisingly good 2012 (‘The Vow’ excluded, of course) with another solid piece of acting. Even though I liked the latest sequel in the ‘American Pie’ franchise, this movie captures the reunion spirit in a more authentic way and doesn’t feel the need to shortchange that aspect of the story. This is almost entirely about the get-together and I appreciated that, even if it sometimes treads familiar territory about graduates realizing that they haven’t all completely grown up. The cast is full of interesting actors having a good time, and writer/director Jamie Linden is happy to just let them play, even if some of them sadly fade into the background a bit more than I’d have liked. Now that the film is out in theaters (I saw it a month ago but have been under embargo until now) I can safely recommend it to you. It’s not a classic, but it’s authentic and well worth seeing!

The plot surrounds the reunion of a number of people who were friends in high school but for the most part haven’t really kept in touch much since then. Our protagonist, as much as there is one, happens to be Jake (Tatum), who’s bringing his girlfriend Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) to his reunion. She’s never met his friends, so she’s never really known what he was like back then. They arrive at the home of his old friend Cully (Chris Pratt), the former bully, and his wife Sam (Ari Graynor). Also arriving soon are pals Marty (Justin Long) and AJ (Max Minghella), who really want to turn back the clock during the evening. At the house too is the now famous musician Reeves (Oscar Isaac), but Jake and company treat him just like it’s old times. They all head out to the reunion, where they run into the likes of former popular girl/unattainable beauty Anna (Lynn Collins), who Marty and AJ lust after, and Elise (Kate Mara), who’s never heard of the hit song Reeves has on the radio. Also on hand are Garrity (Brian Geraghty) and his new wife Olivia (Aubrey Plaza), plus Andre (Anthony Mackie). But when Jake’s ex Mary (Rosario Dawson) suddenly shows, along with her husband Paul (Ron Livingston), that’s when things threaten to get complicated. So, while Cully drunkenly tries to apologize to all the nerds that he bullied, romantic possibilities and complications between everyone else begin to arise. Things aren’t as convoluted as they seem, mostly since reminiscing replaces action, but things are sufficiently well paced and enjoyable to watch.

It seems like Channing Tatum’s horrific performance in the putrid film ‘The Vow’ is the outlier for his year, as he’s managed to impress in both ’21 Jump Street’ and ‘Magic Mike’ (along with a decent supporting turn in ‘Haywire’) following that travesty from this past Valentine’s Day. Here, he’s very solid again, if not quite as memorable as in those other flicks. His character is the focus of the beginning and end, though he fades into the ensemble during the middle of the movie. Tatum isn’t trying to be showy, and it works for him here. He actually turns in the second best performance in the flick. The best belongs to Oscar Isaac, who not only proves an excellent singer (he also wrote the song used in the movie…it’s a very nice one and could be a dark horse Oscar contender for Best Original Song), but continues to impress with his acting. As a rocker who just wants to remember the simpler times with his friends, he’s the most memorable part of the movie, especially when it comes to his interactions and chemistry with Kate Mara. She’s good as well, but Isaac is the highlight. Besides Mara’s fine supporting turn, everyone else is solid as well, from Chris Pratt as the comic relief to Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Ari Graynor, Ron Livingston, and Aubrey Plaza as mostly ignored companions. Brian Geraghty and Anthony Mackie are somewhat wasted, but nice to see back together after ‘The Hurt Locker’. Honestly, aside from Isaac and Tatum, Lynn Collins, Rosario Dawson, Justin Long, and Max Minghella fare the best with their supporting turns, though no one is bad. Rounding out the large cast are Scott Porter, Kelly Noonan, Aaron Yoo, and many more.

Writer/director Jamie Linden makes a solid directorial debut after an uneven screenwriting career. I enjoyed ‘We Are Marshall’ but the less said about ‘Dear John’, the better. Here, Linden shows an aptitude for direction and streamlines his writing to make a more effective final product. It’s definitely the best script he’s done yet. At times the film lacks focus, but he does keep things well paced and you’re never bored, plus the song that he had Isaac contribute is a real winner, so he gets some extra credit there. The sense of friendship that sometimes is missing in these sort of movies is captured very well here. I’m very interested in seeing where Linden goes next with his career.

’10 Years’ isn’t a top tier film, but it’s a very entertaining ensemble piece that’s worth checking out now that it’s in theaters. Buoyed by likable performances and an overall happy feeling that the movie gives you, I have no trouble recommending it. Channing Tatum fans may not be thrilled that he keeps his clothes on, but for me, it’s an encouraging sign of where his career might be going. Give this one a shot and you’ll likely share in the good feelings that I got. If you just want a simple movie to smile at, this is a vey solid choice this weekend…

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!