There is nothing unexpected in 10 YEARS, a tale of the eponymous high school reunion. Instead the emphasis is squarely on the similarly unsurprising cross-section of high school types, which is a risky proposition but one that pays off with a superior cast allowed to do what they each do best, and with writing that stays sweet rather than raunchy. Taking place over the course of one tumultuous evening, the former classmates pick up where they left off with the usual emotional bumps with which stories like this are rife.
Jake (Channing Tatum) is the prom king turned mortgage broker showing up with serious girlfriend Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) to whom he is about to propose, only to be blindsided by his high school sweetheart, Mary (Rosario Dawson), who wasn’t supposed to show up at all, but has with her husband (Ron Livingston). While pals Marty (Justin Long), Cully (Chris Pratt), AJ (Max Minghella), Andre (Anthony Mackie), and Reeves (Oscar Isaac, who co-wrote and performs the film‘s terrific breakout song) ponder whether or not Jake would have brought Jess if he’d known how awkward it would be, they are also plotting their own moves for the reunion. Marty wants to score with Anna (Lynn Collins), the class party girl. AJ wants to be his wingman while making sure everyone knows how well he’s doing financially. Reeves, who’s found fame in the music industry, wants to find Elise (Kate Mara), the girl that got away. Andre wants to score with the ladies, and Cully, the class boor (stronger words are used in the film to describe him) wants to sincerely apologize to everyone he picked on way back when. The which he does leaving his long-suffering wife Sam (Ari Graynor), to apologize to the victims of the ham-handed apologies.
It all goes as so many films of this ilk have gone before, but does so with a wonderfully grown-up sense of both nostalgia and melancholy. Particularly with Tatum and Dawson, who can fill in the blanks about young love that didn’t work out with the way they stare into each other’s eyes for just a beat too long, or smile not with delight but with the bittersweet memories of what was. There are also a few nice touches that avoid the cliché. Jess is curious, not threatened by what Jake and Mary had. Sam has a slight but sharp edge of bitterness about being forced to be the only adult in her marriage, and Pratt really does come across as having mellowed out with marriage and fatherhood into the possession of a heart of gold, even if he is otherwise oblivious to innate obnoxiousness. Even Aubrey Plaza and Brian Gerghaty as the married couple getting bored with each other find little gems of deadpan humor in otherwise throwaway parts. As for Minghella and Long, they are quintessentially Minghella and Long, and that’s anything but a bad thing.
10 YEARS is a pleasing mix of belly laughs and gentle sighs. When the plot twists, and the secrets are revealed, what they lack in surprise they almost make up for in a gentle, heartfelt sincerity. It’s not earthshaking or groundbreaking, but it’s a worthy showcase for the talent involved and probably more fun that most real high school reunions.