“Everybody Wants Some!!” offers lots of laughs, warm performances

Charles Liu

Richard Linklater has a way of making the ordinary unusually engrossing. After springing up on the filmmaking scene with “Slacker” and establishing himself in Austin, Texas, it’s only fitting that his latest picture, “Everybody Wants Some!!,” opened this year’s South By Southwest Film Festival.

A spiritual successor to “Dazed and Confused,” “Everybody Wants Some!!” is a rambunctious comedy about 1980s college baseball players. The film, driven by characters who crave sex, get high and love the ballgame, meanders through one wild weekend in their lives, and the tale is intimate, poignant and funny. Like his other movies, “Everybody” is loosely crafted, more of an experience than a narrative.

Freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) is anticipating a great experience the day he moves into his baseball team’s house. His early encounters with members of his team — such as the smooth-talking Finnegan (Glen Powell) and philosophical pothead Willoughby (Wyatt Russell) ­— as well as attractive theater student Beverly (Zoey Deutch) set the story’s likable, blithe mood.

The world of “Everybody Wants Some!!” is similarly bright and inviting. Linklater, production designer Bruce Curtis and costume designer Kari Perkins have done a stellar job crafting the film’s 1980s setting. The locations, clothes, cars and music are on point, and the fads of the era figure into several conversations, including waterbeds and “Space Invaders.”

Over the course of three days following his arrival, Jake navigates social life in the baseball house and the dugout and discovers the team has a constant competitive streak. Everyone’s always trying to one-up each other, whether it’s by scoring points at ping pong or scoring girls from the local disco club. This inevitably leads to boyish, charming banter and, occasionally, laugh-out-loud weirdness.

Linklater, who played for Sam Houston State University’s baseball team, injects the picture with experiences from his own life, and the intimacy of the film’s events can also be felt in the interactions between his characters. The ensemble cast oozes energy and charisma. Jenner and his thespian companions swagger about with ease, and they have such fun doing things such as performing “Rapper’s Delight” and hazing that it’s impossible not to smile and laugh with them. They feel like the best of friends.

We learn a lot about the characters from the way they react to similar situations and the way they hold themselves, and, thankfully, the moments they share are not always marked by roasting and aggression. Sometimes they open up or drop their macho facades, and Linklater gives us glimpses into their minds, what their fears are, what they believe is important. Those moments of seriousness are warm and nice, if too on-the-nose.

Jake best sums up the movie with the Greek myth of Sisyphus, a man punished by the gods for his sins by being forced to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity. There’s futility to Sisyphus’ actions, but Jake believes the man can nonetheless find meaning in what he does. The dudes of “Everybody Wants Some!!” engage in these battles of wit and strength, only to find their prides threatened and wounded and forced to engage again. In the grand scheme of things, a temporary victory means nothing, but the guys find value in what they do, and they’ll keep doing it until the day they die.

It’s sweet, though, that the dudes still never forget to see the value in their buddies. They stumble and hurt each other, but they brush it off and keep going strong. The point is everybody wins in “Everybody Wants Some!!,” and so does the audience.

“Everybody Wants Some”

  • Running Time: 116 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Score: 4/5 stars