In addition to being a delightfully likeable comedy, Jamie Linden’s directorial debut proves what we long suspected: that all movies could use a little more Channing Tatum. "Ten Years" is another one of those massive-cast ensemble movies, stringing together about 20 main characters into a broad character comedy. But perhaps the problem with dreck like "New Year’s Eve" or "What to Expect When You’re Expecting" is the egos - the decidedly B-list cast here (Anthony Mackie, Rosario Dawson, and Aubrey Plaza are likely the biggest names) gels together perfectly.
Also, unlike those aforementioned Gerry Marshall-directed disasters, this film has the good sense to center on one character. We open and close on Tatum’s Jake, who’s been sitting on an engagement ring intended for his girlfriend (played by his wife, Jenna Duwan-Tatum) for eight months; unable to find the right moment. The Tatums seem to basically be playing themselves (the films most unbelievable stroke is that Tatum is a mortgage broker, a process he doesn’t even attempt to understand,) and it works: I worried his charisma in recent hits like "Magic Mike" and "21 Jump Street" were the work of the auteurs behind said projects, but here he’s as likeable as ever.
But they are only two of a large crowd coming together for their high school’s ten-year reunion; joining them are a large series of one-note jokes disguised in the form of side characters. Everyone’s situation is pretty easily explained: you have the former player who never settled down (Mackie,) Tatum’s old sweetheart (Dawson) and her new beau (Ron Livingston,) the bully out to make amends (Chris Pratt) and his fed up wife (Ari Graynor,) the rock star (Oscar Isaac) and the girl that got away (Kate Mara,) the list goes on and on. Yet the actors, and the (seemingly somewhat improvised) dialogue flesh out all the small details that their original stereotypes leave out.
Indeed, some of the segments would be better off on the cutting room floor. One strand, with Aubrey Plaza distressed to realize that her husband was formerly a breakdancing wigger, feels tacked on and nothing if not inessential. Yet the pieces come together, and there’s never a moment where the movie feels as if it’s going long, so I can forgive the occasional missteps. The wit is sharp, and the humor is consistent; more than enough to make the less integral moments entertaining and the whole picture an exceedingly fun experience.
What director Jamie Linden does with "Ten Years" that other similar films have not is properly intercross his many different character arcs. He finds that the best moments are not the individual payoffs (what do you think is going to happen with the rock star and his long lost crush?) but rather when the characters come together to hang out (like a great scene with Tatum, Mackie, and Isaac rushing off to get high in their car.) It allowed me to look past his ugly digital cinematography to instead appreciate the quality character work being done within.
All this adds up to give us something that feels a bit more "Dazed and Confused" than "Valentine’s Day;" even if this film can’t live up to the instant-classic status of the former. "Ten Years" is a breezy gem that finds us liking the characters for the people they are instead of the people playing them, and it carries on in such a delightfully inoffensive manner (to be honest, hardly anything happens, so to speak) that it becomes a joy to hang out in. Sure, packing all those characters into under 100 minutes leaves you thinking it could use more Channing Tatum. But what movie doesn’t?