Reunion: Partying with the Past

No matter how old you get, everyone dreads their high school reunion.

In Reunion, Mathew (Chace Crawford) and Ray (Lil Rel Howery) may not be living their best lives but they’re (mostly) happy. After they receive an invite to their high school reunion though, suddenly their lives don’t seem so glamourous. One of them a local cop and the other unemployed, they decide to attend the reunion in the hopes of getting through the night too embarrassed. But, when their evening is cut short by murder, they must work together to figure out which of their old classmates is the killer before time runs out.

Directed by Chris Nelson, Reunion is a silly but solid murder mystery that manages to keep the party going. While Reunion doesn’t achieve the level of chaos that makes the Knives Out films so wild, a solid script and some genuine twists make the film an enjoyable puzzle box to solve. Written by Willie Block and Jake Emanuel, the film manages to stick the landing with the solve of its mystery, planting breadcrumbs that come together in the end.

Taking place within one primary location, Reunion likes hits all the murder mystery tropes but seems to revel in them at the same time. A mysterious body is found. A terrible storm keeps all the primary suspects in one location. A string of simple misunderstandings lead to other secrets. In fact, the film even features a classic ‘reveal monologue’ to help put all the pieces together in the end. Even so, Block and Emanuel ensure that the audience is laughing enough that the film doesn’t feel predictable.

Though, while the script is fun, it’s the cast is what gives the film its energy. As Vivian, Jillian Bell leans into the silliness with enthusiasm while Crawford serves the scene well as nice guy, Mathew. Even Michael Hitchcock is a joy as the cantankerous Theodore Buckley. But the strongest performance by far is Howery. As the listless Ray, Howery manages to make his character endearing, even in his goofiest of moments. Though Howery has popped in more high-profile projects, it’s performances like this that remind the viewer why he’s finding so much work recently. Even in moments when scripts are lacking, Howery has the ability to make the scene work.

Having never really found success, Ray is a man who has never lost his confidence. But reunions have a way of pointing out the opportunities that we’ve missed over the years. When compared to his old classmates, the once-popular Ray suddenly sees the ways that his life simply doesn’t measure up. A lack of a job and some broken relationships seem to follow him amongst his former classmates, all of whom seem to have made something of themselves. (“You’re acting like you’re 18 years old,” he’s reminded.)

But Reunion’s silliness is buoyed by the real conversation of the nature of success as well. While Ray may not have found financial stability, he still seems like one of the more mature characters within the film. Even wearing ’40 Hands’, Ray seems to have his head on properly. While financial gain has eluded him, his strength of character keeps him going (and grounds the film).

Ray’s a good guy. And he wants that to count for something.

While Reunion may not be the best example of the genre, there’s no doubt that the film makes for a fun murder mystery that anyone can enjoy. Like getting together with a group of old friends, the film makes for a feisty night of mayhem that’s worth attending.

Reunion is available to buy on VOD on Friday, June 28th, 2024. 

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