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More Dazed and Confused

Paramount Pictures
 117 Minutes
Rated: R
Directed byRichard Linklater 
Starring: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Zoey, Deutch
Everybody Wants Some

In 1993, fledgling writer/director Richard Linklater first attracted public and critical attention with Dazed and Confused, a paean to his own high school days in Texas in 1976 (when Linklater was a freshman). Now, some two decades later, Linklater has moved the biographical time clock forward only four years to 1980, as he tries to recapture that same magic in Everybody Wants Some, a film about, you guessed it, college life in Texas. Only, as Thomas Wolfe once noted, “You can’t go home again.” Linklater’s new movie will satisfy those who are nostalgic for the pop culture of the late 1970’s but not those who expect an actual storyline or well-developed characters.


Home in this case is a fictional college where Jake Bradley (Blake Jenner), a freshman pitcher, shows up on the Friday before classes start to move into his new lodgings in what is essentially a frat house for the school’s baseball team. Shortly after he moves in, he gets an orientation talk from the baseball coach, who tells him and the other incoming freshmen of the two house rules: no drinking and no women upstairs. That scene represents the only appearance in the movie by a non-extra adult (except for an inane second act plot twist). It also represents the only time in the film when anyone pays more than lip service to those, or indeed any, rules.


Jake quickly settles into the routine of campus life, which seems to consist of doing very little other than drink, smoke pot, bet on any form of competition imaginable, and party and chase after women. His new teammates take turns taking him under their wing and shepherding him to a wide variety of bars and parties, while dispensing instantly forgettable bits of life lesson “wisdom,” such as “This ain’t high school, man; this is a whole new level. You have not earned teammate status yet.”


Over the weekend, Jake does his best to earn teammate status and manages to do something none of his more experienced pals can accomplish—get an actual girlfriend, as opposed to a one-night stand. She is Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a theater student who takes a liking to Jake when he and a carful of his teammates pass her by and he’s the only one not making a crude pass. Later, Jake and Beverly get to know each other and an actual late, late night tender moment passes between them shortly before Jake has to actually show up for his first class.


In another movie, the budding relationship between Jake and Beverly might be dismissed as schmaltzy, and it’s a far cry from the all-night encounter between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Linklater’s acknowledged romantic gem, Before Sunrise. But in a movie in which the audience sits through what’s essentially 90 minutes of locker room chatter before hearing a female voice utter more than one complete sentence in a scene, it’s a welcome relief. It also points up the major difference between Everybody Wants Some and the superior Dazed and Confused.


Dazed and Confused was somewhat lacking in plot as well, but its characters were a better, and more developed, mix. That film served to introduce audiences to Matthew McConaughey, whose character hung around high schoolers to try to keep what he had at that age, and gave us McConaughey’s patented “All right, all right, all right” line. In Everybody Wants Some, Linklater gives the audience a cast of baseball teammates who are largely interchangeable—and forgettable—characters, played by largely interchangeable actors. Most of them look like they just walked in off the set of a porn film. Even the team’s only black player, Dale (J. Quinton Johnson), has seemingly the exact same personality as his white teammates.


Amidst this exceedingly homogenous mix, only two players emerge with anything resembling even two dimensions of character, the team stoner, Willoughby (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt), and the overly caffeinated transfer from Michigan, Jay (Juston Street). Not coincidentally, they are the only ones besides Jake who are allowed to dominate any single scene. And, similarly not coincidentally, the scenes they do dominate are among the better ones in the movie.


Much of Everybody Wants Some is pleasant enough to sit through. Linklater has assembled a great period soundtrack, and the film’s costuming and production design are spot on. He also invents reasons in the script to have the characters attend virtually every type of bar and party imaginable, from a disco to a country bar to a costume party. Linklater’s vision of those settings, filled with gorgeous and extremely accommodating women, eager to hop into bed with the various players, is a convenient fabrication, as is his vision of a 1980 Texas country bar in which a black man can hit on white women without creating the slightest bit of tension.


That authentic period feel, even though it is highly idealized, is the only really memorable thing in Everybody Wants Some. I saw Animal House nearly 40 years ago, and Bluto, Otter, Flounder, Dean Wormer, and the rest are still vivid, as are at least a dozen scenes. All I can remember from Everybody Wants Some are a handful of scenes with good setups that simply didn’t pan out (like a crude locker room joke). Further, some of the things I found mildly amusing, such as a discussion of why pitchers aren’t accepted by their teammates, will probably only appeal to a certain type of sports fan. As far as out-and-out laughs are concerned, they are few and far between in the movie.


Everybody Wants Some brings to mind the oft-repeated criticism of Seinfeld. This is a movie about characters doing essentially nothing for two hours that is presented as a fond remembrance of the time period. To his credit, Linklater has placed his trivial characters in an incredibly authentic and entertaining environment, elevating the movie from what would have been a total disaster. But for a director who recently managed the incredible feat of keeping audiences enthralled by characters who aged over a 12-year span in Boyhood, Linklater is now unable to keep an audience interested over a three-day span. Everybody may want some, but it’s a safe bet they don’t want much of this movie.

Read other reviews of Everybody Wants Some:


Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) on IMDb