Watching "Everybody Wants Some!!" is like going to a college party sober and realizing the party goers are, well, jerks.
The spiritual cousin to “Dazed and Confused” lacks the warmth, laughs and genial nature of that cult classic. It doesn’t spare the details. Director Richard Linklater nails the early ’80s college experience with the same gimlet eye he brings to all his films.
Just because you can practically smell the stale beer doesn’t mean you wanna drink it. And spending two hours with the testosterone-laced students at this fictional college is enough to make you opt for a trade school.
Blake Jenner’s Jake is the newest arrival on this Texas college campus, a pitcher settling into his new group home.
He’s immediately insulted by his teammates, part of a male bonding ritual to play out in Technicolor. There’s a pecking order within the baseball ranks, and this freshman has to pay his dues. Or something.
Frankly, the teammates are alternately bitter and cruel to each other even after the “getting to know you” period ends.
Slowly, Jake learns how to navigate the campus and his teammates. Drink. Party. Score. But he can’t get one comely co-ed out of his mind.
FAST FACT: The youthful cast of “Everybody Wants Some!!” referred to writer/director Richard Linklater as “Rickipedia” for his amazing knowledge of the era.
Anyone bothered by “Boyhood’s” lack of a story line will be similarly annoyed with Linkater’s latest. It’s just a snapshot of college circa 1980, a fly on the wall perspective without serious ambition.
That’s not to say there’s nothing potentially to be gleaned here. Only Linklater’s script lets us know in bold, bright colors what our takeaways should be. College is about discovering your true self, not simply following the herd.
“It’s about finding out who you are,” one student opines. Whoa.
To get those vacuum-packed life lessons we still have to spend time with these characters. That’s often a chore despite a cast with palpable charisma. Wyatt Russell is buried beneath a 1980-approved beard and a mask of pot smoke, but he still resonates. So does Glen Powell as the resident lady killer with a curious pick up line we can’t repeat here.
But who wants to spend time with grown men who pout when they lose at ping pong? Or guys who pick fights for no good reason at all? Sometimes they don’t have each other’s back when it’s time for a possible hookup.
The film’s first 20-odd minutes finds us tagging along with the students as they roam from party to party. There’s nothing wrong with that, if the characters are intriguing, the jokes distract us and we learn a little something along the way. Not here.
That said, “Everybody Wants Some!!” nails the period details as well as any production could. KISS pinball machines. A soundtrack sure to sell millions to those who miss the era. Dive bars treated like palaces by the students. The team’s rickety college house, which might collapse before the first game of the season.
“Everybody Wants Some!!” will be one long trigger warning for social justice warriors. The film all but excludes female character of consequence until the third act. The male students treat women like sex objects, to be generous. And the language gets a bit salty, including a reference to gay people that wouldn’t pass muster today.
Was this the last blast of the unfiltered male ego, a time before Alan Alda and the sensitive man rode to the culture’s “rescue?”
Feel free to take that lesson from “Everybody Wants Some!!” Just know you won’t have a great time digging it out from this mediocre time capsule.