Jamie Linden, perhaps best known as the screenwriter of We Are Marshall, makes his directorial debut with the high school reunion drama 10 Years. It was released theatrically at a few dozen locations this past fall, where it made little impact. It’s an ambling ensemble piece in which a bunch of classmates meet up for their 10 year high school reunion. The big draw here is the presence of Channing Tatum, hot off his summer smash Magic Mike. Those hoping he’ll take his shirt off are bound to be disappointed. In fact, everyone remains fully clothed for this chaste PG-13 soaper.
Somewhere in this tangled web of characters is a potentially interesting character study. The problem is, Linden piled on the drama and didn’t know where to stop. Ultimately he’s interested in what changes can come about in the decade following high school. Some people achieve success, other don’t. But everyone has his or her own problems. Jake (Tatum), a sullen mortgage broker, appears to be happy with his girlfriend Jess (Jenna Dewan, the real-life Mrs. Tatum) but he’s burdened by some unresolved feelings for former flame Mary (Rosario Dawson). Cully (Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt) is intent on apologizing to every nerd he bullied in school. He overdoes it, much to the embarrassment of his wife Sam (Ari Graynor).
Meanwhile, former party girl Anna (Lynn Collins) seems to be hiding something. We find out exactly what when Marty (Justin Long) and AJ (Max Minghella), two dudes who can’t stop bragging about their supposed successes, TP her house after the reunion. Reeves (Oscar Isaac) hit the big time as a singer-songwriter but never got over his crush on Elise (Kate Mara). There’s also Garrity (Brian Geraghty) and his wife Olivia (another Parks and Rec alum, Aubrey Plaza), who didn’t know her husband when he was known as G-Money in high school. No one at the reunion can believe Garrity married a white girl, he was so immersed in African-American culture a decade before.
That’s doesn’t cover everyone, but you get the idea. There’s too much going on for Linden to focus on anyone long enough for us to care. The cast is mostly likable, gamely trying to deepen their thinly written characters. Lynn Collins makes the deepest impression, making one wish the whole movie had focused on Anna. Everyone underplays, probably due as much to the underdeveloped character arcs as any direction they received from Linden. On one hand, it’s admirable that 10 Years wants to rise above some of the typical high school reunion clichés. This isn’t a silly romp like American Reunion. 10 Years is far more mature and subtle. But between those two, I know which one I’ll be quicker to revisit (hint: the dumb one with lots of T&A, I’ll take cheap laughs over unfulfilled potential any day).