All of us remember our first taste of freedom, especially Texas writer-director Richard Linklater (Boyhood). He’s damn sure the sweet deliverance of independence never quite blows our minds the way it does on our first few days of college. Home? Parents? Responsibilities? Goodbye to all that. Getting shitfaced and fucked up is practically on the curriculum.
That’s the setup for Everybody Wants Some!!, a spiritual sequel to Linklater’s immortal 1993 Dazed and Confused, in which 1976 teens celebrated the last day of high school before summer. Now it’s 1980 and entitled baseball jocks are learning to be bros at a small Texas University. That Linklater was once a baseball jock makes things personal. His best movies, from Slacker to the Before trilogy, all bring us in close.
The switch here is from freaks and geeks to alpha males. A winning Blake Jenner plays Jake, a freshman pitcher who moves into team housing and a whole new world. His roommate Billy (Will Brittain) is a stiff, and he can’t miss the hostile vibes emanating from upperclassman McReynolds (a most excellent Tyler Hoechlin). But the older Willoughby (a sensational Wyatt Russell, Kurt and Goldie’s kid) is a stoner who plays nice, as does Dale (J. Quinton Johnson), the team’s only black player. The MVP for fun is a dynamite Glen Powell as Finnegan, a pipe-smoking, Kerouac-quoting pickup artist. When Roper (Ryan Guzman) takes the team for a ride on campus, female rejection is easily dismissed as an aberration with one word said in unison: “Lesbians.”
The laughs are raucous and punctuated with songs, dance sequences and dudes in cars jiving along to “Rapper’s Delight.” There’s hardly any baseball; the scoring system here is largely based on who gets laid and how often. Everybody Wants Some!!, with its title and two exclamation points borrowed from Van Halen, is full of dick jokes, large and small, and a swagger that instead of being irritating becomes irresistible. It’ll slap on a smile on your face that won’t quit.
Leave it to Linklater to create a nonstop party that keeps ringing undertones of what happens when the party’s over. That’s what makes it a Linklater film. Characters introduced as types reveal their true selves. Jake falls for Beverly (a terrific Zoey Deutch), a theater geek who knows her own mind. The swirl of music — disco, country, punk — echoes the identity shifting. And Linklater eases us into a specific time and place until his themes become universal. He builds human comedies, the kind that last.