Richard Linklater Scores With "Everybody Wants Some!!"

Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some!!” is being billed as a “spiritual sequel” to his 1993 breakout “Dazed And Confused.” It’s an outwardly obvious comparison: they’re both nostalgic hangout movies overflowing with sex and booze and larger-than-life characters. But “Everybody Wants Some!!” is a spiritual sequel to so many of Linklater’s films, at once invoking the laissez faire plotting of his spectacular “Before Sunrise” series, the cozy comedic stylings of “School Of Rock,” and some of the same thematic material as 2014 Best Picture contender “Boyhood.” These are all excellent things to invoke.

Even more, it’s a baseball movie. A good one. This means that not only has Linklater reached peak awareness of his own strengths, not only has he innovated a new way to make a sports movie – by downplaying the sport itself – but he’s also made amends for his unfortunate 2005 “Bad News Bears” remake. No small feat.

Set during three days leading up to the fall 1980 college semester, the movie follows a house full of college ball players as they get acclimated to their surroundings. Theirs is, at first, a world comprised almost exclusively of their rundown domicile and a variety of clubs and bars, each player attempting to get to know his teammates – but more importantly, every single female in sight.

Freshman pitcher Jake is the picture’s de facto lead, and actor Blake Jenner (apparently a lab-grown Chris Klein-Skeet Ulrich hybrid) turns in a pleasantly bland performance. His subtle progression from new guy to slightly more confident new guy with a potential girlfriend, Beverly (Zoey Deutch), works. But the movie’s real sustenance is in the way he interacts with his teammates, every last one of them as endearingly dopey as the Van Halen song from which the movie borrows its name.

From Tyler Hoechlin (“Road To Perdition”) as the team’s temperamental leader to Wyatt Russell (“22 Jump Street”) as its resident mystic-stoner to a couple of relative newbies that all but steal the film, it’s nearly impossible to identify a stand-out. They all stand out. Weirdo hurler Jay (Juston Street) might be the funniest character the film has to offer – his discotheque meltdown over an improperly garnished screwdriver is incredible – but professional doofus Plummer (Temple Baker) proves a worthy adversary. Baker is a master of deadpan incredulity, spinning uniformly stupid lines into high comedy.

Glen Powell (“The Expendables 3”) as Finnegan, team motormouth, brings a similarly weird energy to the proceedings while first-timer J. Quinton Johnson delivers the movie’s mostly quietly engaging performance. Dale isn’t the most memorable character here, but he’s the glue that holds the group together and Johnson, who has charm for miles, makes him his own.

As the team drifts from dance club to cowboy bar and back again, the soundtrack becomes more and more omnipresent, highlighting the players’ indirect quest for self-identification. By the time they start to bond, the movie becomes all the more infectious for it, revealing some of Linklater’s best character work to date. In acts II and III especially, the writer-director gives each of his ten or eleven main players multiple shots at the spotlight. They almost always square up.

If the end product ends up feeling slight, that’s because it is. In stretching no discernible plot to nearly two hours, Linklater has written a tall order for himself. The movie goes on at least fifteen minutes too long, repeating itself in its home stretch in service of a couple middling jokes. But it’s nearly miraculous that something so plotless can be so appealing for so long.

It’s also without the gravity of some of the filmmaker’s better works, but out of necessity. A good-natured buddy comedy can only attempt so many emotional lunges before it washes up into sentimentality, something Linklater has always been a pro at avoiding. He does it here expertly, tying a bow on the blooming romance between Jake and Beverly without overselling it.

No, the aim of “Everybody Wants Some!!” is to mirror the warm feelings that come with a good beer buzz. And for that, there are few better options.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★★★ 1/2 out of ★★★★★ (Good)

Release Date: March 30, 2016 (Limited)
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Richard Linklater
Screenwriter: Richard Linklater
Starring: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, J. Quinton Johnson, Juston Street, Temple Baker, Ryan Guzman, Will Brittain
MPAA Rating: R (for language throughout, sexual content, drug use and some nudity)