Everybody should get some of ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ (2016)
More than 20 years after the success of “Dazed and Confused” (1993), Richard Linklater graduates from ’70s high school to ’80s college in “Everybody Wants Some!!” (2016). These two films along with “Boyhood” (2014) complete his unofficial adolescence trilogy, which showcases Linklater’s paternalistic nostalgia for decades past. Instead of sentimental photo albums, his films feel more like highlight reels, anthropological studies charting the richest rituals and mating patterns of young sub-cultures.
The film centers on Jake (Blake Jenner), the newest member of the Southeast Texas State University baseball team. Having played baseball himself at Sam Houston State University back in the late ’70s, Linklater recreates the indolent bromances of his college years. With his box of records and set of monochrome tees, Jake moves into the dilapidated baseball house, an architectural nod to the Delta Tau Chi fraternity of “Animal House” (1978). Yet in Linklater’s universe, there are no threats of double-secret probation — that would ruin all the fun. The coach limply bans girls and alcohol from the house, but even he seems in on it. Playfulness is just as integral as game play.
Like a clown car, teammate after teammate pops out of the cramped quarters and soon the house comes alive. The ensemble includes a delicious diversity of humor, notably the Zen pothead Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), the Southern stereotype “Beuter” (Will Brittain), the mustachioed head case Jay (Juston Street) and the faux-philosopher and wit Finnegan (Glen Powell). Over the three days before classes start, we follow these self-proclaimed gods around campus while a countdown clock occasionally marks the nearing first day. But this deadline is harmless and arbitrary; these antics will continue for another four years. From disco dances and the Cotton-Eyed Joe to mattress slides and endless cans of Miller Lite, it’s the summer camp of boobs and booze.
With an ensemble typical of a television series, Linklater somehow manages to flesh out the entire team in under two hours, boiling each player down to an essence, mixing and matching personalities in a series of hilarious set pieces. Still, I could see myself binge watching episodes of the team’s antics on Netflix as they wreak havoc on airplanes, other campuses and the diamond. Their brawny exteriors veil the competitive, impetuous children inside, which only make their medieval impressions and foolish bets all the funnier. Their humor feels largely improvisational, a jazzy style of camaraderie and mockery which leaves no one unscathed. This quirky chorus holds nobody sacred, and this instability charges the air with riotous possibility. An awkward comment or stray look can set any scene off into Marx Brothers-esque tag team excess.
The episodic structure is loosely strung together by the spontaneous whims and boredom of these athletes. While there is a romantic subplot between Jake and a theater student, the film mostly sidelines their relationship and prefers simply to watch his teammates practice drinking and sex as if it were integral to their regimen. Fundamentally, there is no plot; a plot assumes significance, development or conflict. Any profundity would be laughed at and handed a beer to shut it up. But their debauchery is rather clean. The gauche entropy of “Animal House” is replaced by Linklater’s verbal acrobatics; their fun is words, not destruction. While fairly repetitive and aimless, these men find ways of making each party and flirtation entertaining. Which is surprising. These are the guys you’re supposed to hate in college: the ones who hit golf ball off roofs and invade other parties. Yet Linklater makes you part of the team so you can’t help but embrace the hedonism. If you’re in college, it may just make you put down your books and find the nearest beer funnel. You know you want some.
“Everybody Wants Some!!” is now playing at the Nugget Theater in Hanover at 4:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.