10 Years is less emotionally fraught than going to your own high school reunion, and may be less dramatic, let alone than in other such movies. However, your fellow alumni are probably not as attractive and appealing as this mostly genial ensemble of rising young Hollywood actors.
As the alums head to their reunion (Albuquerque stands in for their hometown), they are all determined to project adult maturity, success, and atonement for past regrets, but all inevitably revert to their teenage behavior. Jake (Channing Tatum) has some guilt that he has to resolve before he can move on from his glory days as the Prom King, and there’s the usual Class Clowns: Cully (Chris Pratt, much like his doofus on Parks and Recreation) wants to apologize to the Asian victims of his pranks, and Garrity (Brian Geraghty) can’t help falling back into his faux black talk with Andre (Anthony Mackie) and showing off surprising break-dancing skills. Two revenging nerds, Marty (Justin Long) and A. J. (Max Minghella), work hard to prove that they are now cool.
Just as in high school, the girls are still more mature. Cully’s wife, Sam (Ari Graynor), wants a grown-up night out from handling him like one of their rambunctious kids, which she inevitably won’t get. The very grounded Mary (Rosario Dawson) wants closure on the prom she had to miss, while Elise (Kate Mara) takes a break from the older men she’s been dating to revisit the place she thought she’d glided through unnoticed.
Their partners—Jake’s Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Channing’s off-screen spouse) and Mary’s Paul (Ron Livingston)—are very patient and good-natured, and indulgently let them wallow in nostalgic interactions. They also keep graciously accepting frequent and reassuring declarations of devotion, so there’s no tension or much in the way of revelations between the couples, although Garrity’s Olivia (the always amusing Aubrey Plaza) adds a dollop of refreshing outside perspective. Carefully balanced in between is Scotty P (Scott Porter), who has traveled from abroad with a Japanese wife Suki (Eiko Nijo) who needs constant cultural explanations. Ironically, Scotty is the most bland and undefined character, though Porter is an old friend of writer/debut director Jamie Linden and helped develop the script after attending their 10 year high school reunion.
As these nice folks gradually loosen up with the help of an open bar, two intriguing characters emerge with touching performances to raise the film’s game. Anna (Lynn Collins) celebrates her glory days as the Most Popular Girl (with only flashes that she may have also been the Mean Girl), but as the night plays out after the reunion, she reveals more depth and gives the film more heart (and the reunion’s biggest surprise—no, no one comes out).
The class’s Most Charming is Reeves (Oscar Isaac). He fits the reunion into the middle of his rock concert tour, and is bit embarrassed to collect the frequent accolades for his one hit from every fan there. When he finally performs the sweet song (Isaac co-wrote “Never Had” with Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle), it’s staged in a too obvious tribute to the classic scene in Robert Altman’s Nashville (1975) where several women think they inspired a musician. But throughout 10 Years, Isaac finally gets to be as much a romantic live wire in the movies as I’ve seen him on stage in Romeo and Juliet and Two Gentlemen of Verona at New York’s Shakespeare in the Park, and he will hopefully be a discovery for fans of Tatum. Too bad too much of the rest of the reunion and the film is so familiar.