Should Everybody Want Some?? Oh, Hell Yah!
There are some movies my close friends and I consider sacred. We were 90s teens so there were certainly lots of unforgettable classics we were lucky enough to see in theaters – Jurassic Park, Friday, and Fight Club to name a few. However, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused is the Holy Grail. To this day we all frequently quote the movie, most often (of course) Wooderson’s famous line about high school girls and aging…you know the line!
So, when I first heard a while back that Linklater was working on a (sorta) sequel to Dazed and Confused, I thought it sounded promising…but not gonna lie – there was definite concern. See, during my time writing for Film Autonomy, I’ve reviewed a lot of sequels, including a few long-awaited ones (Zoolander 2, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2, ugh) and the results have been, frankly, disappointing. It’s fair to say after enduring both of those, I was damn near petrified about Everybody Wants Some!! because this was a movie I would have been legitimately irate if Linklater fucked up. It would’ve been a slap in the face to all those years my friends and I spent quoting Dazed, re-watching it endlessly and making sure someone always had a copy of “Slow Ride” to start out long road trips with (especially back to Houston). It would’ve been a diss to Wooderson, Pink, Slater and all of the other cinematic singular legacies those beloved, impossible-to-forget characters left behind. No, even a “spiritual sequel” (which feel very in chic right now after 10 Cloverfield Lane and this one) needed to – if nothing else – fulfill one obligation: it needed to be a worthy follow-up to the movie my friends and I cherished the most from our teen years.
The story revolves around Jake (Blake Jenner), a college freshman pitcher. He arrives in a small Texas college town three days before the official start of fall semester classes. The movie chronicles the weekend’s misadventures as he becomes acquainted with his charismatic team/roommates while adjusting to and enjoying his newfound, oft-rambunctious, college lifestyle.
Doesn’t that narrative sound a bit familiar to all the Dazed and Confused fans reading this? Yep, indeed, it sounds like the saga of Mitch (Wiley Wiggins), the young pitcher making his transition from awkward middle schooler to cool high school freshman hanging out with the big kids during a celebratory night on the first day of summer. And while retreading down familiar ground has been the death knell of many sequels, spiritual or not, it works REMARKABLY well in Everybody Wants Some!! mainly because it plays so heavily on Richard Linklater’s strongest filmmaking traits: his knack for telling stories that occur in a short duration of time, nailing the period’s music and creating memorable characters. I haven’t read any interviews with the Austin filmmaker, but it’s actually very easy to see Jake’s storyline as a continuation of Mitch’s, which isn’t a bad thing at all. If anything, it’s because of that I felt even more invested in him right from the opening scene (accompanied by a PERFECT opening song as well).
Jake is a solid protagonist, but Jenner also has an extremely talented stable of young, fantastic actors surrounding him (as Wiggins did). Glen Powell portrays the fast-talking, quick-to-adapt Finnegan; Tyler Hoechlin plays the alpha McReynolds, a tough-love, short-tempered upperclassman; other cast standouts include J. Quinton Johnson, Wyatt Russell and Zoey Deutch as Beverly, Jake’s love interest who also provides much-needed smarts and character development in contrast to the film’s other females that are mostly decorative at best.
The soundtrack is itself one of the film’s brightest stars. I really wasn’t sure if Linklater would be able to duplicate the same magic he did with the Dazed music, but he definitely delivers, yet again. I feel like when most people think of early 80s tunes, they conjure up audio cues from the last remnants of the Disco Era, the revitalization of country (thanks to Urban Cowboy) and the burgeoning punk rock music scene. Linklater brilliantly finds organic ways within the story for the boys to navigate through these different crowds and his zeitgeist-nabbing track selection is absolutely sublime.
The party scenes? Christ. Richard Linklater has a real gift for those – who could forget the epic kegger at the moon tower? Here, we see the same dubious amounts of partying in several locations, including an Animal House-style blowout that might actually piss you off because you’d rather be there instead of sitting on your ass in a theater watching these people having the time of their lives.
However, that’s essentially the connective thread among all of Linklater’s films. Beyond his great soundtracks and party scenes, his most evident God-given ability as a filmmaker is his naturalistic way to take his audience “along for the ride.” It’s exactly what made Dazed and Confused so exhilarating and Everybody feel so authentic. Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Boyhood (take away the gimmick, you’re left with a terrible script) and even a lesser fan of his snooze-inducing Before series, but there is no denying you still felt like you were right alongside his relatable, grounded characters in those films as well.
So is this a rampaging, testosterone-fueled bro-out for 116 minutes? The film seems very self-aware of the “dumb jock” label just as much as its players, yet it dispels that notion by the end. More than anything, this is simply a story about male bonding – their musings on the world, their place within it and with each other. It’s a personal story which belongs not only to Jake, but also his teammates. One of the more important scenes of the entire movie is when we see the team practice together for the first time on the field. We see ego deflation, the yearning for acceptance and the rituals of the old that forge a brotherhood with the new amid competitive fire.
Everybody Wants Some!! is a fun, thoroughly entertaining and honest portrait of early 80s, small town college decadence. Additionally, it proves to be a more than worthy successor to its spiritual predecessor, Dazed and Confused. 2016 had already served up several disappointing sequels, but Linklater’s latest offering bucks that unwanted trend. Everybody marks not just the first great (sorta) sequel of 2016, but the first truly great film of the year, period.