Given the sumptuous quality of his most recent credits – Boyhood and his three Before films, one can forgive Richard Linklater an awful lot. He has emerged in recent years a distinctive, influential world-class film-maker.
So his latest venture Everybody Wants Some!! (yes, those two exclamations marks are part of the official title) feels like writer-director Linklater taking a breather and having some uncomplicated fun.
He’s taken a bunch of raucous American students on their first day of college in 1980; all these ‘jocks’ aspire to make the baseball team. They’re all adept at the game, but their sense of competitiveness runs much more broadly - to how much beer each of them can drink, the number of girls they can bed, and who plays the best pranks on the others.
Put so baldly, this group sounds unbearable – and sometimes an arrogant sense of entitlement and privilege is difficult to set aside. But in their way these kids also have wit and charm. They’re not quite men – rather, they’re cocky, confident boys who are trying too hard. And a lot of the time, in their dumb way, they’re endearing.
The film functions as a companion piece to Linklater’s Dazed and Confused from 1993 – though the sense of insolent bonhomie also reminded me of the bad-behaviour-on-campus classic Animal House (1978).
Not much of great import happens in any one scene – something that’s equally true of the widely-praised Boyhood.
What is beyond doubt is that Linklater has corralled a bunch of excellent, likable young actors, many of whom, one imagines, will be future stars. Notable in this regard is Blake Jenner (from Glee), an enviably handsome young man who plays sweet-natured, sensitive Jake – effectively the narrator of proceedings.
In any number of well-scripted and executed set pieces, this troupe excels, both individually and as a team. One highlight for me was their brilliantly staged sing-along in a crowded car to the Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight; one character after another takes his turn, singing the fast, complex lyrics with uncanny precision.
Popular music frames the entire movie, from the Knack’s dumb classic My Sharona through Blondie’s Heart of Glass and Good Times by Chic – all true to this specific period. Linklater loves music, and uses it judiciously.
Everybody Wants Some!! is no masterpiece, especially compared to Linklater’s very best work. But it’s an amiable, testosterone-fuelled slab of fun – and despite its crudeness it has a good heart.
Read David Gritten's insightful film reviews every month in Saga Magazine. Subscribe to the print edition, or download the digital edition today.