It's one thing for director Richard Linklater to follow up the sprawling ambition of Boyhood with a so-called "spiritual sequel" to Dazed and Confused, but it's quite another for it to actually reach the dizzying heights of that 1993 seminal ode to all-night partying, teenage rebellion and L-I-V-I-N. That's what makes the accomplishment of Everybody Wants Some!! all the more remarkable, as Linklater vividly re-captures all of the youthful exuberance and keenly observed humour of that film in transplanting the revelry from high school life in the '70s to college life in the '80s.
Introducing a collection of characters that have come to a Texas university to play baseball, these elite athletes occupy their time with getting inebriated, chasing college girls and turning these and pretty much every other activity into a competitive sport. Much like Dazed, the film features an ensemble cast of fresh-faced actors brimming with easy charm and natural talent, who follow in the footsteps of Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey before them.
Our nominal protagonist and entry point into this brave new world is freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner), who arrives at his new testosterone-filled home with his record collection in tow. Initially, we're just as overwhelmed by all of the new faces as he is, but distinct personalities slowly start to emerge. There's the fiercely competitive McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), the genial stoner Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), the hayseed affectionately referred to as Beuter (Will Brittain), the daffy "raw dog" Jay (Juston Street) and a whole host of other teammates who are affable in their own way.
The group is committed to making the most of the final few days before classes start, which means drinking while talking shit and drinking while trying to get laid. As with many of Linklater's films — including Dazed — that eschew any sort of traditional plot in favour of the characters, it's not so much about what happens as how it happens.
Accordingly, it's the small moments that stand out: the seeds of romance between Jake and performing arts student Beverly (Zoey Deutch); how a fight that breaks out in the disco leads to the team dancing to "Cotton-Eyed Joe" in a nearby country bar; and the developing dynamics and hilarious interplay amongst the group as they continually rib and compete against each other for any morsel of respect.
It becomes clear that the film's about the struggle everyone endures to find where they truly belong. At one point, Jake encounters a former high school teammate who has now transformed into a punk rocker and, when Jake and a few of the guys tag along to a punk show, Jake waxes philosophically about the identity crisis one can't help but undergo at that age.
While the film might not exactly qualify as a sports movie (though there are certainly a couple meaningful at-bats), there's a deep understanding of the camaraderie and unconditional loyalty that comes with being part of a team. Where Dazed and Confused established separate cliques that intermingled over the course of a night while making the best of being stuck where they were, Everybody Wants Some!! deals instead with the intoxicating rush of realizing you're not alone even as you venture out on your own for the first time. And we're happy just to be able to hang with the group, even if only for a short while.