Everybody Wants Some!! (can’t forget the two exclamation points in the title, after all) finds Richard Linklater returning to familiar ground. He’s said in interviews that his new film is a sort-of sequel to Boyhood and a follow-up to Dazed and Confused, though it’s set four years after that film (1976 to this film’s 1980) and none of the same characters appear. Everybody connects to many themes that Linklater has covered over time, and it’s about the most likable film you’ll see all year. That may sound like a bold claim, but when I mean liking the film, I don’t simply mean that it’s good—it is—rather that the entire tone is infectious in a positive, sweet way.
It follows freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) as he comes to his new college four days before the first day of class and becomes a part of the baseball team. It centers on what Jake and his new friends do at night and during the day. I could go on about the plot, but, honestly, there really isn’t one, just as there weren’t exactly plots for Boyhood or Dazed. It’s simply a series of experiences, no more, no less.
Jake connects with various members of the baseball team: Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), the group’s pothead and Carl Sagan enthusiast; McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), who has a competitive edge in such things as ping-pong; Dale (J. Quinton Johnson), the “token” black guy, but that’s never made an issue, and it would be out of place here if it was; Billy (Will Britain in a wonderful deadpan turn) as the group’s redneck (yes, far more than any of the others, and this is set in Texas, by the way); and Roper (Ryan Guzman), the catcher. Just as it probably would/should be, pitcher and catcher become friends quickly. I’m leaving out some others, like the guy who is just ornery most of the time. He’s stringy and looks nerdy, but he can talk a mean game to the guy behind the bar at the disco as if he means it, but he mostly just yells and punches the fence in the outfield.
This is a movie populated by many personalities, but it’s never hard to keep track of them, and there’s always a great line or moment that makes its mark. Linklater is so adept at cutting between different characters while not making you miss one for too long; it’s like an even more confident version of Dazed, and that jumped between many characters over one night. There are some raunchy moments, but it’s not done in a way that feels like it’s making light of some stereotypes of hard-partying college guys, or at least not consciously. (I have to wonder if there will be one intrepid journalist during the press tour who will ask Linklater what it was like to direct a mud wrestling contest.)
It’s very easy to screw up this kind of movie, a very nostalgic, 1970s-cum-1980’s-drenched story involving young men. (For example, imagine Adam Sandler, whether now or some years back, in this same world.) The movie is also, like Daze, punctuated by a pop soundtrack, an eclectic mix from classic rock to new wave to disco and even punk. (Among his adventures, Jake runs into a high school friend on campus—currently a punk—and a few of the guys on the team decide “let’s be punks tonight.”)
The highlight of the whole movie comes in a scene where Willoughby has some of the guys in his room and they pass around the bong. He takes a massive hit, while listening to Pink Floyd’s “Fearless,” and tries to practice telepathy with the others in the room. A scene like this in other movies could be hacky, maybe mocking the caricature of a pot-head, but I never felt that from Linklater for Willoughby or for anyone else—yes, even for the weird guy who gets so angry he’ll punch a fence.
Occasionally there were some big laughs but mostly small ones, and if I wasn’t laughing, I was just smiling at the conversations these young men were having (and sometimes at the women, who are well drawn when they’re given some lines to say, such as Zoey Deutch’s Beverly).
Some may find that Linklater keeps the movie drifting along by not coming around to any real “central question” or hard-driving conflict. But he is simply having a great time letting these guys have a great time in finding girls, partying, playing baseball, goofing around, and laying the groundwork for what will be the rest of their college lives. I don’t know if it’s one of his all-time best or what have you, and that’s fine: the characters are fun, vibrant, a little wild, and off-kilter, lacking in a cynicism often found in frat boy?driven college comedies. It’s a remarkable achievement in its somewhat low-key way.