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Three women return home for their ten year high school reunion to discover that a time capsule made on graduation night, predicting where everyone would be in ten years time, is due to be opened and read aloud at the impending event. Horrified at the thought of their unfilled goals being revealed, they embark on a 'search and destroy' mission for the capsule and chaos ensues. Written by
1- Low expectations often lead to increased satisfaction... I'll admit that personally I did not expect much from this movie. The fact that it was filmed locally and I knew several people involved with its production provided more than enough incentive to invest the time and money to see the results. However as a middle aged man going into the theater, almost everything I had heard about the film itself would not have led me there. The on-line trailer was pretty awful and will not do a thing to grow the audience. Young women on a high school reunion?...PLEASE; Time capsules?...GIVE ME A BREAK!!; Ghostly grandmothers coming down to earth to look after their granddaughters?...NO WAY!!! But Kalamazoo? turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining picture about three women who return home for their ten year high school reunion and discover a lot about themselves and life in a short weekend. Along the way, they ultimately discover that high school was over ten years ago and they had to let those memories go if they were to get on with their lives. While I couldn't relate to the plots' specifics, the film succeeds with a bigger story that would appeal to a larger public than the young women I anticipated it had been written for. Kalamazoo? has enough going for it to be a sleeper and succeed even outside of its home market in West Michigan, but its marketing needs to reveal that there is more to this picture to give it any chance.
2- First there has to be a story... A good movie needs to have a story and on several levels Kalamazoo? succeeds here. The basic story of the reunion and time capsule, of limited appeal to me, merely provides a vehicle to learn more about the main characters even if it does take most of the movie to get you there. I was surprised at my reaction toward the end of the movie as it all hit home to me that these characters, great long time best friends, really did not know each other all that well. Maybe it is that high school was not the best place to establish life-long friendships. At that age most of us are far to superficial and hardly know ourselves. High school is about the crowd and how we want to be perceived. After learning all of the really important stuff in Kindergarten, it's almost as if the rest of our primary and secondary education worked to suck that knowledge from us. It's not that high school friendships aren't all that important, but that people continue to grow well beyond those years. Becoming a secure adult ultimately demands that acknowledgment.
3- It has to keep moving... To be successful, a movie must keep the audience's attention. Once the premise is revealed it should move along reasonably to a climax and not allow the viewers to get their minds wandering. Kalamazoo? is well paced, in fact, while following the story I frequently found myself forgetting to look into the backgrounds for scenes and people I knew. That is a good thing! This is a short movie. Discounting the 15 minutes of previews at the start and about 10 minutes of out-takes at the end, there is only about 90 minutes to the movie itself, a nice length for this story. Scenes which defined non-central characters, such as the punch bowl scene at the re-union, were not dragged out, making them effective as comic relief and adding to, not detracting from the story line.
Overall I thought the acting in Kalamazoo? is actually pretty good, even if the direction was a little uneven to my way of thinking. The performance in Sheryl's house while searching for the capsule attempted to emulate the Three Stooges when I would have expected something else. But the characters worked well together although their different personalities made me wonder several times whether the three could ever actually have been best friends. Probably the best parts of the leads' performances were the scenes with their parents, which went a long way to define this film and make the story work. I was really less impressed by the grandmothers' roles than the parents'.
On the whole, Kalamazoo? is an entertaining piece, with a subtle message that can stay with you for a little bit after you leave the theater. It would be worth your time to check it out!
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