Linklater’s latest, Everybody Wants Some!!, is a college comedy reminiscent of Dazed and Confused, his 1993 film that followed a cast of high schoolers through their 70s shenanigans. Now he’s hit the 80s and college: classrooms and fields are replaced with nightclubs and frat houses, populated with Space Invaders, discos and silly haircuts.
Like much of his work, the film functions as a plotless meander through 80s cliché. Linklater chooses to open with lead man Jake (Blake Jenner) rocking up to his new home (full of his baseball team mates, the only characters we really get to know) in a vintage car holding literally nothing but a box of records and a baseball bag. This sort of dreamy depiction of the 80s party life never fades; Linklater does an excellent job of curating his soundtrack, decor and outfits to get us to fondly chuckle at old times. The first extended disco scene is wonderful for this, following the crew coolly chasing down girls with idyllic success.
Sadly however, nostalgia is the beginning and end of the film’s entertainment value, largely because of Linklater’s cast of a homogeneous bunch of college baseball players. Whilst looking and sounding different, they are all the same in the two key aspects: stupidity and libido.
The film could probably be summed up with Finn’s (Glen Powell) quip, “We’re just two guys doing anything we can to get laid. That’s who we are.” The result is an unsavoury vision of antiquated male stereotypes. The disco and house party scenes, composed of the identical girl-chasing shtick every time, comprise an excessive proportion of the running time.
The most interesting character (and, perhaps not coincidentally, the only female character given any sort of attention) is only properly introduced two-thirds of the way through: given enough screen time to make you wish she was there earlier. At other points we suffer exceedingly dull 10 minute baseball scenes, in which the same menu of tired themes – competitive men in perpetual fear of various emasculations – is worked through at a mindnumbingly dull pace.
Perhaps this is Linklater’s masterstroke, painting a past of ridiculous and unsympathetic boys, but he fails to do it in anything approaching a witty fashion. Satirising perhaps, but not entertaining.
Where his films usually sacrifice structure for sprawling character studies, Everybody Wants Some!! seems like a formulaic stagger from gag to gag, none of which are particularly well pulled-off . Every line seems to be aiming for something, meaning that little of the dialogue is interesting in its own right. Thus the whole film feel like a checklist of ’80s clichés and character tropes, whilst Linklater’s past successes have all been as aimless and fluid as they are plotless. At the end of the day, you should probably watch Dazed and Confused instead.