On the surface, “Everybody Wants Some!!” seems like a typical frat-style comedy, with plenty of beer bongs, ping pong and ding-dongs, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it isn’t typical, given the career of its writer and director, Richard Linklater.
The film, following the escapades of a college baseball team on the weekend leading up to the 1980 school year, has been called a “spiritual sequel” by Linklater to his 1993 cult hit “Dazed and Confused,” a nostalgia trip to high school in the late 1970s.
But the film also is reminiscent of Linklater’s previous effort, 1991’s “Slacker,” falling somewhere in the middle, an attempted time capsule like “Dazed” with a meandering plot more reminiscent of “Slacker.” It’s 90 percent guys trying to get laid, and 90 percent averse to a conventional story about guys trying to get laid.
It opens with Jake (Blake Jenner), an incoming freshman pitcher meeting his teammates, who live in two adjacent houses off campus. After a brief introduction, Blake’s main compatriots end up being two of the team’s leading ladies’ men, Finnegan (Glen Powell) and Dale (J. Quinton Johnson), with Zen toke-master Willoughby (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt) pulling up the rear.
It’s not surprising that the script and the even-keeled Jake gravitate to these three. The rest of the team is a motley crew of movie jocks, who don’t all seem to belong within the same movie. Ultra-alpha male McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) veers perilously into caricature with his constant machismo. Niles (Juston Street) is an absurdly hyperactive pitcher who seems like he escaped from “Napoleon Dynamite.” He makes no sense in this movie at all.
If the characters are a little all over the place, it might be because Linklater’s detached, indie sensibility doesn’t quite mesh with the material, an attempt to recapture a bygone era through the limited scope of goofy party dudes.
The director of “Before Sunrise,” “Bernie” and “Boyhood” crafting of his blissed-out version of “Animal House” is interesting, and certainly not the typical matinee trip. But the result also is one of often jarring incongruence and cognitive discord. There are unexpected characters and situations but also a lot of problems. And the combination can be a grind.
Jake and his buds are open-minded partiers, going from a disco to a rodeo bar to a punk-rock show, all with a slight change of wardrobe, taking an unusually egalitarian, utilitarian attitude to picking up chicks. But the scenes are parceled out so slowly that the result is mere amusement, nothing laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a lot of effort without much payoff except to show, repeatedly, that these guys get a lot of girls. And they love to party.
One of many party scenes feels right out an actual ’80s film like “Sixteen Candles,” with revelers sliding down stairs into stacks of beer cans and turning each other upside down over kegs. What’s lost is that John Hughes comedies are amplifying an adolescent ideal of the world to create an easily digestible statement about coming of age. Linklater constructs the same world as if it existed, as if it’s interesting in its own right to relive an era through that era’s own imaginary impression of itself.
That’s just weird. The risk is a film becoming its subject, rather than the other way around. “Everybody Wants Some!!” isn’t just about boorish bros. Often it is one.
Although a tad overrated, “Dazed and Confused” is a much better execution of the nostalgia trip that Linklater’s trying to re-create. Its music cues are often cloyingly obvious, but it feels cohesive and has a compelling narrative arc that competently juggles its ensemble cast and the characters’ intersecting stories. Roger Ebert, in a lukewarm review, aptly called it “the painful underside of ‘American Graffiti.’” “Everybody Wants Some!!” copies its ingredients, like the hazing of freshmen, and the constant battle to codify and perpetuate social hierarchies. But try as it might, the result is more like the painful underside of self-plagiarism.
The movie might end up being another crowd-pleasing indie hit for Linklater, and it’s certainly an inoffensive romp whose charms might seem less timeworn to other audiences. But this nostalgia trip isn’t about an era as much as it’s about the way Linklater might want to relive another episode in his career, and how much he wants this one to live up to it. (R) 116 min. 2 STARS