- Movie Rating -

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

| April 25, 2016

Nostalgia these days is a dime a dozen.  Go to your local retail store and you can see that it has practically become a cottage industry.  It doesn’t take much to make nostalgia into a visual feast, but it takes a steady hand to give you the pure feel for something that takes you back.  Richard Linklater is one of the few filmmakers who knows how to recapture the times and events that were important to him and sweep us along.  That was the magic of his great 1993 high school comedy Dazed and Confused and it is the spirit of its new “spiritual sequel” Everybody Wants Some!!

The earlier film offered a loose, open dialogue, dealing with 20 or so high school kids just before summer vacation in 1976.  They were wandering, sort of aimless, and sort of sad in a many ways.  But that didn’t keep them from the all-important pursuit of beer and a great party.  Everybody Wants Some!! – which takes place in basically the same universe – has more or less the same goal.  This one takes place in 1980 – August 28 to be exact – and follows three days in the lives of a house full of college baseball players as they follow the all-important pursuit of, you guessed it, beer and a great party.

Our setting is a baseball dorm somewhere on the outskirts of the campus of an unnamed college three days before classes are due to start.  Occasionally a clock appears to tell us how long before class.  Yes, this is a Ticking Clock movie, but it may be most laid-back Ticking Clock movie you’ve ever seen.  Our focus is on a good-hearted pitcher named Jake (Blake Jenner) who arrives on campus in his Mustang with his milk crate full of albums (we can clearly see Devo’s “Are We Not Men” front and center).  Jock hostility from the upper-classmen is present, not because Jake is a freshman but because he is the team’s pitcher – there’s a lot of tribal structuring here that is based on one’s position on the team.

All of the conventions of such a situation are avoided here.  This isn’t a frat-house movie.  It’s something much more intelligent.  Yes, these jocks spend their free-time looking for booze, sex, and the next party but this isn’t a boring series of shenanigans.  Linklater is more interested in relationships.  They talk, they smoke weed, they drink, they hassle each other and they look for a party.  Their coach, only seen once, advises them sternly on the house rules: 1.) No alcohol and 2.) no girls in the upstairs bedrooms.  Those rules are broken before the coach even clears the door.

The guys in the dorm are individuals, not stereotypes.  Their names seem interchangeable but their personalities do not.  Linklater has cast the movie with relative  unknowns and that lets us off the hook from getting comfortable with recognizable actors.  We see them as Jake sees them, from the ground up.  There’s Glen (Tyler Hoechlin), the team leader with the crippling competitive streak.  There’s Finn (Glen Powell), the ladies man.  There’s Plummer (Temple Baker), the dimwit.  There’s Dale (J. Quinton Johnson), an African-American second baseman who bears a bizarre resemblance to Vince Vaughn.  There’s Jay, a lost soul whose apparently adopted psychopath persona is a cover for some much deeper problems.  And Willoughby (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt and Goldie), the sage-like stoner who dispenses the wisdom of Carl Sagan.

What is interesting about these guys is that they are not what you might think.  Yes, they’re jocks, but they’re not all one-dimensional meatheads.  They are loaded with testosterone but there’s some depth to them that makes them interesting, personable and vulnerable.  24/7 they are always in competition with one another whether it’s knuckle-flicking or air hockey or Space Invaders or picking up girls at the bar.  Life is a competitive sport and they are lions to the feast.  Yet, they are not mean-spirited.  They don’t down or destroy those who are weaker than themselves.  These are essentially nice guys whose pack mentality retains hostility within the pack.

The bar hopping is important here.  The date given at the beginning – August 28, 1980 – is a signal that this will be a peek into a very specific moment in cultural history.  When the guys go out, they still dress like Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and hit the local discotheque, yet we know that this is a fad that is barely breathing.  At this moment country music is about to experience a rebirth and the subculture of punk is becoming an angry trend.  After Jay causes an incident at the disco, the guys are forced to try something new, all in the pursuit of girls, of course.  With that, the movie becomes a travelogue of the cultural re-identification of 1980.  It’s a strange, but effective counterpoint to what is happening to the guys as a group and how they think.  The success rate with the girls is only equal to what is available at each party.  They do well at the disco, but when they attend a party thrown by the girls from the theater department they find that they are clearly out of their element.

The movie has an easy flow without feeling like it has to grandstand each moment.  What’s interesting about Linklater’s writing is that refuses to go for grand dramatic overtones, almost nothing in this film builds to a dramatic climax.  His film has the pacing of real life.  The dialogue is almost all insults, grandstanding and truth-telling, but it never flat or boring.  What confrontations arise are handled with the delicate touch – I was impressed that a confrontation between Glen and Jay during practice didn’t end with a fist-fight but an apology handled so delicately that I found myself nodding my head in appreciation.

This movie is a lot of fun, and I appreciated the fact that I didn’t know where it was going.  In the hands of another director, this might have become just another shenanigans comedy all about gross-out jokes and personal insults.  Linklater is much smarter than that.  He loves these characters, he loves this time, he loves this specific time and he does his film the compliment of not disparaging the period.  There are no portents of the future, no dunderheaded notions that his characters are living out of time and might be happier in the 21st century.  When the clock runs out, classes begin and the movie arrives at an ending that made me smile.  Knowing who the characters are and how they got to college, the last shot makes perfect sense.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2016) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy