To put it bluntly, Dazed and Confused isn't my thing. Never has been. Others may consider it a classic coming of age movie, but it doesn't "speak" to me and probably never will. Richard Linklater's other films have, however, with the director's singular focus on characters rather than plot, and his ability to bring us into whatever era he's waxing nostalgic about at the moment. Linklater loves to just chill with his characters, and he makes us want to chill with them, too. It's this strength that makes his '80s frat house comedy Everybody Wants Some!! so enjoyable in capturing the freedom and promise that comes with being young, athletic, and male.
As 'Dazed' was set at the tail end of high school, with future possibilities wide open, Everybody Wants Some!! is set in the fall of 1980 days before the new school year begins. And yet the future is still wide open for Jake (Blake Jenner), a clean-cut star freshman pitcher arrived on campus at a fictional Texas university. Consider Jake like the Jason London of this particular story; he's our eyes and ears, the character who is to guide us through a flurry of frat boy hijinks and shenanigans. Jake lives in a frat alongside the other players on his baseball team, all on the constant quest for sex, the next party, and more sex. Not only are these guys preoccupied totally with getting laid, but so is the movie. Linklater is essentially making an '80s-style sex comedy, and romanticizing every last bit of it in the process.
While Jake is pretty much a blank slate, his crew is anything but. There's Finn (Glen Powell, Jr.), a mercurial lothario who doesn't mean tailoring his personality to score with hot chicks; the reliably cool Dale (Quinton Johnson), fiery team captain and Billy Crudup lookalike, McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), epic stoner Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), and the team weirdo Jay Niles (Juston Street). These are just a few of the outsized personalities that populate Jake's insular world, and Linklater is content to just follow these guys around as they rag on one another about their baseball talent or lack thereof, their prowess with women or lack thereof, and not much else. There's very little examination of whom these guys are beyond their simplest, immediate desires for pleasure, indicative of the film's Van Halen-inspired title, and that actually works in its favor. The only time it doesn't quite feel authentic is the few occasions when Linklater tries to provide a glimpse of the wider world around them. That begins with Jake's casual courtship with Beverly (the always great Zoey Deutch), a performing arts major who provides a semblance of balance to his life. They bond over the mutual competitiveness of their chosen fields, but not much else. Fortunately, her arrival also sends the uncouth dudes into one heck of a party full of theater geeks.
Of course the period details are on point, and if you're a child of the '80s the soundtrack is going to be a must-purchase. Everything from the aforementioned Van Halen to Blondie to The Sugar Hill Gang is used to pinpoint perfection, along with a smattering of punk and disco. There are enough tight jeans and bad haircuts to remind audiences of all the bad choices they made years ago.
Does Everybody Wants Some!! stand up as an equal to Dazed and Confused? It'll take some time for that to be properly assessed, but it's a film that lives up to its wildly emphatic title, so jump in and join the party!!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5