Indie icon Richard Linklater has been making wry, rambling, character-driven films since he burst onto the scene with 1991’s Sundance sensation Slacker. And though he is probably best known now for directing School of Rock, the Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy Before trilogy and 2014’s Boyhood – which was nominated for six Oscars and took home a richly-deserved Best Supporting Actress trophy for Patricia Arquette – for most hard-core fans, Linklater’s greatest achievement will always be the sprawling, 1970s-set coming-of-age classic Dazed and Confused. The Nashville of the 1990’s with more than 50 speaking parts, Dazed and Confused not only put Linklater on the map but it also made stars of future Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck and Renée Zellweger.
So, when Linklater started referring to his latest opus, last spring’s college baseball comedy Everybody Wants Some!!, as a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, film geeks everywhere (myself included) rejoiced. Unfortunately, Everybody is no Dazed and Confused. Not even close. And, technically speaking, Everybody isn’t really much of a sports comedy either. Aside from one extended sequence involving actual baseball gameplay, the rest of the movie is all talk. And though that would normally be totally cool and par for the course in a Linklater film, despite a few hugely-funny party scenes, most of Everybody feels more like unused Dazed and Confused B-roll than a sequel, spiritual or otherwise.
Set on a fictional Texas college campus, Everybody follows the adventures of incoming freshman pitcher Jake (played by newcomer Blake Jenner) and his college baseball teammates during the last three days of summer in 1980. Packed with killer retro costumes and a fantastic soundtrack (featuring Cheap Trick, Blondie, The Knack, Van Halen and more) on the surface, Everybody has all the trappings of a truly great Linklater film. But the one thing missing is a really strong female point of view.
Sure, there are a handful of small, memorable parts for the ladies and Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy, Dirty Grandpa) exudes total movie star moxie as Jake’s love interest, Beverly. But Deutch’s scenes are too few and far between to make much of an impact and so what we are left with is a bunch of dudes talking about sex, drugs and baseball for almost two hours. When a man who writes such great, fully fleshed-out female characters relegates the women to the sidelines, it’s like you’re only getting half a movie. Seriously, where is Parker Posey’s sadistic Dazed and Confused cheerleader Darla when you need her?
Of course, that’s not to say the dudes in Everybody aren’t up to snuff, because they totally are. Will Brittain is hilarious as the team’s resident redneck Beuter, Ryan Guzman and Tyler Hoechlin exude older college guy cool as Roper and McReynolds, and newcomer Temple Baker is so good at portraying “dumb jock” Plummer that you’ll swear you knew someone just like him in high school. But the real McConaughey-style scene-stealers in Everybody are Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn) as the sage stoner with a secret, Willoughby, and Glen Powell (Scream Queens) as the team’s resident Romeo, Finn. These guys are amazing and really take the movie to the next level in every scene they’re in. It’s just a shame that Willoughby and Finn don’t have a better storyline to inhabit than the weak sauce Linklater offers up here.
Now playing on select Air Canada, Delta, American, Lufthansa, Emirates, and EVA Air flights worldwide, Everybody Wants Some!! is also available via streaming at iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Video.