Tuesday 2 July 2024

REVIEW: Reunion (2024 Film) Starring Billy Magnussen, Jillian Bell and Jamie Chung


Review by Jon Donnis

"Reunion" is a 2024 American comedy mystery film directed by Chris Nelson that offers a mixture of humour, intrigue, and nostalgia. The film stars Lil Rel Howery, Billy Magnussen, and Jillian Bell, who bring their own unique comedic styles to a plot filled with twists and unexpected turns.

The story unfolds during the twenty-year reunion of the Ridgeview High School class of 2001, hosted at the opulent home of hedge fund manager Mathew Danbury (Chace Crawford). The reunion features a diverse array of characters, including local police officer Evan West, his best friend Ray Hammond, journalist Jasmine Park, eccentric Vivian Chase, aspiring Congresswoman Amanda Tanner, former popular girl Meagan Cooper, and their old teacher, Mr. Theodore Buckley.

The initial camaraderie and rekindled high school memories take a dark turn when Mathew is found murdered the morning after the reunion, with the attendees snowed in and isolated from the outside world. The film cleverly uses this setting to build suspense, as everyone in the mansion becomes a suspect. The narrative keeps the audience engaged with its intricate web of motives stemming from past grievances, adding depth to the characters' interactions.

Lil Rel Howery as Ray Hammond provides a solid performance, blending humour with a touch of desperation as his character finds himself at the center of suspicion. Billy Magnussen's portrayal of Evan West, the de facto detective, brings a grounded yet witty presence to the investigation. Jillian Bell, as Vivian Chase, adds a quirky and unpredictable element to the mix, her comedic timing serving as a highlight in several scenes.

The film's improvisational approach, while ambitious, proves to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows for spontaneous moments of humour and genuine reactions from the cast. On the other, it occasionally results in uneven pacing and a reliance on the actors' improvisational skills, which vary in effectiveness. This method sometimes detracts from the narrative cohesion, leaving certain scenes feeling disjointed or underdeveloped.

Despite its engaging premise, "Reunion" struggles with originality. The film's concept bears a striking resemblance to the TV show "The Afterparty" on Apple TV, which also revolves around a high school reunion murder mystery. This similarity might leave some viewers feeling a sense of déjà vu, diminishing the impact of the film's plot twists and comedic elements.

Moreover, the film's comedic moments are hit or miss, largely dependent on the actors' ability to carry the improvisation. While there are genuinely funny scenes, others fall flat, highlighting the need for a stronger script to support the improvisational style. The ensemble cast, while talented, sometimes struggles to maintain a consistent tone, which affects the overall flow of the film.

"Reunion" shines in its depiction of high school dynamics carried into adulthood, exploring themes of nostalgia, regret, and the long-lasting impact of past relationships. The snowbound mansion setting adds an atmospheric tension, effectively enhancing the mystery element. The film's conclusion ties up the various plot threads in a satisfying manner, though some plot holes remain unaddressed.

In summary, "Reunion" is a decent attempt at blending comedy and mystery, buoyed by a charismatic cast and an intriguing setup. However, its reliance on improvisation and lack of originality hinder its potential. The film could have benefited from a tighter script and a more polished execution of its comedic elements. Overall, "Reunion" is an entertaining watch but falls short of being memorable, earning a generous 6 out of 10.

Out Now on Digital - https://amzn.to/45NfDBg