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Everybody Wants Some!

“Everybody Wants Some” has been described by its director as a spiritual sequel to “Dazed and Confused,” which is the only other Richard Linklater film I like. (Well… “School of Rock” is ok.) I like this film more than “Dazed & Confused,” so that makes it my favorite Linklater film. That’s faint praise.

But it is praise, and “Everybody Wants Some” is a good movie, maybe one of the best of the year.  It’s about a group of guys who play college baseball in Texas and live together in a rickety old house. Blake Jenner is the center of focus, the freshman pitcher who must figure out how to become one of the guys. Not that it’s hard.  They razz him and haze him and the other freshmen a bit, and he takes it good-naturedly, without complaining, and he’s in.

I said college baseball, but there’s not much college or baseball going on in this movie. It’s mostly about the building camaraderie amongst these guys, as they go out every night to a different club or party (disco one night, honky tonk the next, then a theater party… college is great that way) and try to hook up with girls. In between hookups, they’re finding inane frat-guy ways to compete with each other, from a really intense game of ping pong to knuckle wars, and figuring out the new pecking order.  The leader of the pack is Glen Powell, who plays the hyper-literate Finnegan.  This ought to be a breakout role for Powell; he’s been around Hollywood a while, usually playing muscleheads, but has never had a role like this one. He makes the most of the opportunity, proving that he’s a gifted comic actor with great timing.

“Everybody Wants Some” is essentially Animal House with a brain. There are a lot of movies in this mold, but they’re generally pretty lazy, going for the easiest jokes and simplest setups.  This movie is genuinely funny, fresh and creative. A big part of the reason it works so well is because Linklater has sharply drawn each of the characters, and they are memorable.  There’s the lunatic-intense Jay, who thinks he can throw a Nolan Ryan fastball.  The poor kid from rural Texas that everyone just calls “Buter,” because it’s the hillbilliest name they can think of.  And poor Brumley, who somehow manages to say the exact wrong thing every single time. They all jump off the screen.

One girl does catch Jenner’s eye, a theater major played by Zoe Deutsch, who is great with very limited screen time.  She’s another actress on the rise, showcasing Linklater’s eye for talent (remember that “Dazed & Confused” had Ben Affleck and Matthew MacConaughey in it, before anybody knew who either of them were.) Looking at her IMDB page, she was in both “Dirty Grandpa” and “Why Him?” this year.  Three major studio films in a year is impressive, but I hope she can find better work than that in the future.

There is a moment near the end were Jenner explains to Deutsch how he wrote about baseball for his college essay that is distinctively Linklater.  Baseball gives his life meaning he says, because when he’s on the mound, everything else fades away except what he’s doing.  It’s a cheesy, preachy scene, but it’s about two minutes long, and thus bearable.  (It also helps that it’s being spoken by a 20 year old baseball player.  You don’t have to believe he’s right for the scene to work, you just have to believe he thinks he’s right.)  And that’s the difference between “Everybody Wants Some!” and all those other Linklater films I hate – I can handle two minutes of slacker existentialism.  It’s two hours of the stuff that drives me up the wall.  Here’s hoping Linklater makes more films like this in the future.  It’s clear he has talent as a director, if he can get his life philosophies out of its way.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

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