Ok, even though there’s no way in hell Channing Tatum isn’t straight up killing it at his high school reunion, go ahead Hollywood, I’ll bite.
A high school reunion is always an interesting occasion, because everyone goes for their own reasons. You have the super popular type who peaked in high school and want to re-live their glory days, the vengeful “nerds” who want to come back and shove success in their tormentors’ faces, the self-indulgent types looking for an ego boost who just want to compare themselves to people in worse off situations, and then the small smattering that actually shows up wanting to reunite with long-lost friends and go back to the comfort of home for a night.
10 Years attempts to highlight every clique-ish stereotype in the book about life after prom, mixing our characters with comedic drama and issues galore.
The problem is, though, it only attempts to do so.
10 Years is straight cut linear storytelling at its best, but never offers truly immersive or convincing heartfelt emotion or long-overdue redemption. Instead we get a group of over-dramatized party-goers who all have some kind of secret or hidden agenda, becoming just a parade of overbearing circumstances as the story jumps from one person to the next.
I believe the intent of the film was to exemplify how people change over time and the highs and lows we struggle with in the “real world,” but Jamie Linden’s script is far too over-stuffed with heavy-handed distractions. His characters mightily suffer from underdeveloped story telling and minimal evolution, making their plights seem unfinished and underwhelming. The effect of realism and natural personality is lost by the time Linden’s script comes full circle, and it all leaves a sour taste of Hollywood magic as the credits role.
The initial drawing factor for 10 Years is absolutely the cast, loaded with big names and noteworthy faces. From Channing Tatum to Justin Long, Rosario Dawson to Aubrey Plaza, our ensemble of stars mostly delivers compelling performances which do entertain, even if some of their arcs were crafted with only conflict in mind.
The worst part is that some of the more interesting relationship dynamics and likable personas tend to be supporting members instead of main cast mainstays, effectively making their presence known, but also leaving us wanting more from the underutilized talent. The latter is also a common problem in most ensemble cast scenarios, jamming a film so full of star power, it’s almost impossible to give each actor justified amounts of screen time.
The two characters who suffer the most from Linden’s cluttered screenplay are Cully (Chris Pratt) and Sam (Ari Graynor), who don’t have nearly enough time to showcase steadfast development in either character. Without divulging our married couple’s dilemma and spoiling any surprises, Linden only touches the surface of Cully’s intentions, turning him into an unlikable schmuck whom we watch with mounting aggravation.
Just as much can be said for his wife Sam, who seemingly puts up with her brutish husband and his juvenile antics with no benefit to herself. She could have easily stopped Cully, but instead plays babysitter and clean up lady; a rather undignified and abusive relationship which shows no positives. All film we wonder when Cully and Sam will have their turn around moment and reveal a whole other side to the two, but then they just stumble into the sunset, ending their story just as miserably as it began. Were Linden’s only motives to try to prove not everyone can be a good person, even when they try mightily, and that destructive habits never die? Just a shred of morality would have done Cully some good, as the oafish lug was far too selfish and cowardly to find any cute allure amongst.
On the brighter side, the likes of Channing Tatum, Justin Long, Max Minghella, Aubrey Plaza, and so on were all at least entertaining, given the mish-mosh of conflicts caught in an ongoing revolving door of awkward emotions. Long and Minghella especially present a funny best friend rivalry after going their separate ways post high school, and present an understandable conclusion once all the dust settles on their silly shenanigans, providing continual comic relief amongst sadder material, not to be outdone by an under the influence Tatum though.
There are no doubt moments of great laughs and wonderful interactions amidst witty dialogue, but these moments are out-shined by filed attempts at schoolyard drama on an adult level.
I went into 10 Years expecting a much more mature take on teenage comedy, featuring characters picking up where they left off in high school, but Jamie Linden’s focus was a little too broad for his short story. With so many characters and conflicts, not enough time is spent exploring each detailed side-plot to the extent in which an audience connection can be made amongst the vast array of popular faces.
Even with such a spectacular cast of talented young actors who play with the script as much as possible, an overall cohesion in stories is lost a tad and it’s hard to see each character as a real person. Heck, it’s hard enough just seeing the reunion as a whole in any realistic light, being more like a schlocky soap opera at times.
10 Years is an ambitious character piece with a mostly charming cast and problems we can somewhat relate to, but Jamie Linden doesn’t give himself nearly enough time to properly progress each character.
If only the party had lasted a little longer…