I love Richard Linklater’s movies. He and I are contemporaries, both Southerners and film buffs, so I’m pretty much his target audience.
He should have won the best director Oscar for “Boyhood.”
But his new film, “Everybody Wants Some!!,” while amiably nostalgic, is a real regression — maybe the first Linklater movie worth shrugging off.
I showed up at college in the very car one of his 1980 Southern Texas U. baseball players drives in the film. I had that Marantz/Technics stereo and more than a few of what we now call “classic rock” LPs in my dorm. Ready for that “You want to come up and see my record collection?” moment/cliche.
But I found this exercise in 30ish actors as Texas jocks deep in the throes of first-day-back-at-college horndoggery dreadfully dull — two hours of leering, beering, bedding and philosophizing by unknown/charisma-impaired players reciting memorized catch phrases. Mostly about sex. And drinking.
“I’m a grower, not a show-er…Full throttle to the bottle!” And don’t get caught doing “the five knuckle shuffle.”
“I got your joke, right here.”
The “kids” Jake (Blake Jenner) discovers are his teammates are a collection of “types,” right down to the token African American second baseman.
“What the Charlie Pride are you talkin’ about?”
There’s the dorky, bespectacled, violently intense pitcher from Detroit (Justin Street), the muscle-bound big-leagues-bound jock (Tyler Hoechlin), the naive hick c0untry boy and the “Twilight Zone” stoner from California with the telling “Twilight Zone” name, Willoughy (Wyatt Russell).
With one exception, they don’t sound like Texans. With no exceptions, they’re all trying ever-so-hard to pull a Matthew McConaughey in “Dazed and Confused.” Sorry, boys (um, men), you can’t manage that without the drawl.
Glenn Powell’s “deep thoughts” bantering/skirt-chasing “Finn” is the closest any of them gets to McConaughey, and that’s mainly due to the mustache.
The ballers rule the roost at this fictional version of UT-Austin. They’re in their own bubble, with big league dreams, puzzled at what all the “other” boys on campus are even there for — boring, ordinary lives await the non-jocks.
It’s the tail-end of disco, the last vestiges of punk and the birth of “country cool,” with its line-dancing to Eddie Rabbit tunes. The guys sample all of the above over the course of that pre-classes weekend in August of 1980.
Jake, of course, is different. The older pitcher Willoughby counsels, “We’re weird” because they’re pitchers — loners, not following the pack. So Jake sets aside his random sex-capades to pursue a theater major (Zoey Deutch) he can have long, deep discussions with.
“Things only matter as much as the meaningfulness we let them have,” Beverly preaches. Without the benefit of cannabis, that sounds exactly like it reads.
Linklater’s movies are famed for their thoughtful, “Before Sunrise” dialogue. Here, every effort at it sounds recited, every attempt like some fuzzy misquoted memory of college. At least the props are accurate — Joni Mitchell posters, passing Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” back and forth, a sea of fetching coeds in cut-off short shorts (they weren’t called “Daisy Dukes” — yet).
And this certainly matches the sophomoric vibe and randomness of “Dazed and Confused,” its more pointed, more thoughtful companion piece. Pre-AIDS sex and rampant sexism, hazing rituals, drinking, breaking “coach’s rules,” discovering yourself and your own priorities in a world of lemmings who accept the pecking order the way it is. It’s the same movie three years down the road.
But “Everybody Wants Some!!” is just Linklater showing he can still summon up the immaturity to do a film like the ones he did when he had no name, no polish and was just starting out.
This is the sort of movie he’d have made had he never grown as a filmmaker, if he’d only been a one-trick indie cinema pony, like Kevin Smith. And the world has already decided one Kevin Smith is more than enough.
MPAA Rating:R for language throughout, sexual content, drug use and some nudity