A movie like “10 Years” is easy. Gather an ensemble of likeable thirty year old actors, cast them as old friends coming together (in this case at the titular ten year high school reunion), throw some latent drama and a tinge of comedy into the fold, and watch it play out in crisscrossing vignettes over one night that lets the audience feel like they’ve gotten to know these equally likeable characters despite the fact that they are largely one-note, stereotypical representations. The hard part is for this mixture to be good once all the ingredients are thrown in, and it is safe to say that “10 Years” is just that.
The laundry list of people in the cast is quite overwhelming, reading like a who’s who of potential breakout stars with some established actors thrown in there for good measure. The main character, if there has to be one, is played by Channing Tatum who was recently noted by the Hollywood Reporter as the only new movie star to emerge in recent memory. He plays the former popular kid who is on the fence about proposing to his girlfriend, played by Tatum’s real life wife Jenna Dewan-Tatum, and who has to reconcile with seeing his former flame played by Rosario Dawson. Parks and Recreation’s hilarious Chris Pratt plays the former bully who is now married to his high maintenance wife played by Ari Graynor, and who seeks to apologize in top drunken comedic fashion to all the nerds he tormented in high school. Then there’s Oscar Isaac, playing a now famous singer songwriter who seeks to downplay his fame and, even more so, his attraction to the shy ugly duckling he loved played by Kate Mara. Next up are Max Minghella and Justin Long, the two nerdy but slightly cool best buds who pine for their former friend and class knockout played by Lynne Collins. Throw in some more minor characters played by Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Scott Porter from Friday Night Lights, even Aubrey Plaza for some reason, and you’ve got most of the main players populating the ensemble.
The movie runs the risk of having too many characters to keep track of. Though they conveniently wear nametags to the reunion, for the most part their names don’t matter because we only really know them as their stereotype, but even that in itself doesn’t matter. Despite the fact that the movie’s quick pace lets us only spend small amounts of time with each cluster of characters the actors play them just well enough in those encapsulating moments, adding a bit of actuality in a mix of scenes on the verge of being slight and frivolous. We sympathize with them and just go with it. Movies like this are meant to be overly sentimental in order to ramp up the drama in the hearts of the audience to then tie it up nice and neat in the end, and having Channing Tatum as the man to do it doesn’t hurt.
The best actor in the movie, however, is Oscar Isaac who should be more famous than he actually is. Hopefully his upcoming turn in the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewelyn Davis” will shine a much deserved light on his talent. His Bon Iver-esque singer character sometimes teeters on cheesiness, but the manner in which he injects a bit of heart into his scenes saves them from being laughable. Though Kate Mara is desperately trying to stand out as the misunderstood girl, the kind of role better suited for her real life younger sister – Rooney Mara from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” the spark in their scenes come from Isaac’s subdued yearning that culminates in his character singing his hit song to her in a packed bar. The other gem in the movie is Lynne Collins, whose character leads us one way but takes us another as she reveals to Minghella and Long the ways in which her life didn’t turn out the way she wanted. It isn’t awards worthy by any means, but she makes you believe in her sadness after she made you believe she had not a care in the world for all her previous scenes. Her only other high profile roles were in bloated blockbusters like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “John Carter,” but hopefully she gets smaller work to get attention as opposed to the sour memory of those bombs high-jacking her obvious talent.
“10 Years” occupies the same kind of “all in one night” movie frame as something like “American Graffitti.” Both movies feature wall to wall music to keep the tone light and pace moving, and though this one goes for an older demographic they both ultimately try to say the same thing. Why do we emphasize nostalgia, and why spend so much time looking back when you’ve got so much to look forward to? It probably won’t go down in history as some sort of classic, but “10 Years” is a nice little movie once the credits roll. It’s mindless fun with a bit of drama thrown in, but most importantly it serves to showcase some great burgeoning talent that viewers should watch out for in the future.