Starring Blake Jenner. Rated 14A. Now playing.
Austin auteur Richard Linklater has done an unusually good job of alternating personal projects, such as Boyhood and the Before Sunrise series, with commercially successful hired-gun projects, like Bad News Bears and School of Rock.
His skeptical but essentially optimistic view of human nature shines almost effortlessly on Everybody Wants Some!!, with double exclamations courtesy of an especially deep Van Halen song. Here, the Led Zep-minded ’70s high-schoolers of his breakthrough Dazed and Confused are updated to disco-dancing collegiates of 1980, with the new movie a consistently funny, sometimes introspective riff on Linklater’s own experience of setting out on a baseball scholarship.
The film’s ball-pitching freshman at an unnamed Texas university is lanky, easygoing Jake, played by Glee veteran Blake Jenner. Assigned a run-down house near campus, Jake and his teammates fall quickly into a jittery alliance of “fuckwittery”, as he calls it. Ruthless competition is the gene they all share. Standouts include a cocky playboy (Ryan Guzman), the snooty team captain (Tyler Hoechlin), a slow-moving farm boy (Will Brittain), a Zen-minded stoner and fellow pitcher (Wyatt Russell), and a pipe-smoking, Kerouac-reading theorist of everything (Glen Powell). Most have horrible mustaches.
The team’s lone African-American, played by newcomer J. Quinton Johnson (who also penned the re-do of “Rapper’s Delight” that plays over the final credits) is Jake’s guide to the various groups on campus. There are quick background nods to the upcoming presidential contest between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, but no mention of the Iran hostage crisis, nor any racial incidents, and this feels intentional. Linklater has narrowed his focus to that of one good guy leaving his boyhood behind, how he meshes with a ready-made society, and the escape from bro-ness offered by the smart arts major (Zoey Deutch) he encounters on his first day at school. John Hughes it ain’t, but you’ll remember these kids just as if you grew up with them.