One of the many things I admire about “Dazed and Confused,” Richard Linklater’s 1993 high school classic, is the jukebox soundtrack.
I don’t mean I admire it because it has a bunch of great songs. I admire it because it has great songs and lousy songs. Linklater put everything into it, the actual tunes you’d have on your car radio in 1976, not just the music a filmmaker later thought was cool.
The same even-handedness is on display in Linklater’s “spiritual sequel” to “Dazed and Confused,” a college comedy called “Everybody Wants Some!!”
Note the dopey title, and the even dopier exclamation points (borrowed from the Van Halen song). Linklater looks back on this stuff without judgment. In doing so, he finds the humanity in characters who would’ve been the jerks in “Dazed and Confused.”
We arrive at a Texas college in 1980, the weekend before classes begin (Linklater based the film on some of his own experiences as an athlete). Lanky Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives at the off-campus house he’ll share with other baseball players.
Over the next three days, we meet the other jocks. The cast is full of little-known actors, including Temple Baker and Tanner Kalina as befuddled freshmen, Ryan Guzman and Tyler Hoechlin as wily seniors, and Austin Amelio as a gullible burnout. A comic stand-out is Juston Street (“My All American”), as a squirrely left-handed pitcher.
They hang out, pick up women, smoke pot and drink beer, and occasionally play baseball.
This being a Linklater film, they also talk. The most philosophical of the bunch is Finn (very funny performance by Glen Powell), who’s the closest person here to Wooderson from “Dazed.” He’s got theories about everything, and frequently rolls them out to impress the ladies.
But everybody here has a little Wooderson in them—there’s a sense that the dumb pranks and casual sex of these jocks might already be out of date. Linklater lets us make up our own minds about that.
If you didn’t like the lack of strong story beats in “Boyhood,” be advised that the same goes here. Funny things happen, but the strongest melodramatic moment is someone losing a Ping-Pong game.
Jake has fun with a girl (Dora Madison) he meets at a disco, but later sets his cap for Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a theater major whose world is very different from his. And yet maybe not that different; when the jocks invade the theater party, everybody gets along just fine.
To Linklater, all of this is fine. He’s not into scolding his characters, because he knows everybody’s swimming against the same tide—they’re all figuring out who they are, and the bubble of college baseball is going to burst someday.
It’s a wonderful movie, in that sense. Life flows by, with some jokes. At the end, a few life lessons get aired, and general acceptance prevails.
And the music? The movie starts with “My Sharona” blaring out of a car radio. Yes, this movie is accurate.
“Everybody Wants Some!!” (4 stars)
Richard Linklater presents his “spiritual sequel” to “Dazed and Confused,” in which a 1980 college freshman (Blake Jenner) joins his new baseball teammates. Not much happens, but the movie’s got a great affection for its jock characters and a wonderful flow.
Rating: R, for language, nudity
Showing: Sundance Cinemas