Sure, Richard Linklater has made bolder, trickier and more prestigious movies since his 1993 stoner comedy classic Dazed and Confused—Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight and Boyhood spring to mind. But the 55-year-old filmmaker (read his recent Playboy Conversation here) hasn’t made anything since that is as joyful, funny and winning as Everybody Wants Some!!, his “spiritual sequel” to Dazed.
This one is set in Texas in 1980 during a 72-hour run-up to the first day of college. Watchful, easygoing pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) gets noticed by a fine-arts beauty (Zoey Deutch) with whom he strikes up a relationship … eventually. Before that, though, he becomes immersed in the antics of his ball-busting, naïve, fiercely competitive but wildly likable housemates and teammates to be. As with Dazed and Confused, Linklater knows how to cast a movie, and he’s crammed this one with the charismatic likes of Glen Powell (giving what ought to be a star-making performance), Wyatt Russell, Tyler Hoechlin, J. Quinton Johnson, Will Brittain, Austin Amelio (a Matthew McConaughey successor), Juston Street and more.
The plot caroms the guys from party to party, hazing rituals, bong hits, disco dancing, a country bar and a punk club, and even makes time for some baseball. But the loose and limber screenplay, punctuated by a brilliant pop soundtrack that takes in Van Halen, Blondie, Donna Summer, the Knack, Dire Straits and Parliament, is first-rate Linklater even when it meanders. It’s mostly hilarious, spry, loaded with philosophical stoner riffs and peppered with deeper stuff that creeps up on you and gentles you into looking deeper, thinking and feeling more.
Everybody Wants Some!!, a movie Linklater has been wanting to make for a decade, feels tossed off but absolutely authentic. A breezy memory film with period details as dead-on as anyone expect from Linklater and without a mean bone in its body, it’s a twangy, loping charmer.