Our entry into the huge ensemble cast is through Jake (Blake Jenner), an entering freshman at the fictional Southeast Texas University. It’s 1980, so shorts are short and mustaches porny. Jake’s got a baseball scholarship, so he lives in a comfortably dilapidated old house that has been transformed into the team’s kind-of frat house. There he meets his teammates, a motley crew of Texas’ finest that range from the sheltered redneck Beuter (Will Brittain) to the meathead Plummer (Temple Baker), and the confident upper-classman slugger Kenny (Ryan Guzman).
Linklater’s hangout movies always include the anticipation of an event to supply the modicum of tension a conventional plot would normally create. In this case, it’s an onscreen countdown to the first day of class, and like any 18-year-old worth his or her salt, Jake and his buddies are determined to pack as much fun as possible into the long, school-free weekend.
In the process of bro-ing it up with his bros, Jake meets Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a sophomore performing arts major alive with the allure of a bigger and stranger world of college beyond the confines of the team. The low-key clash of cultures is the best part of Everybody Wants Some!! As the party boys drift from the practice field to the fading, cinder block disco called The Sound Machine, a punk squat, and a massive theater/art major party called Oz, they find out their jocular jock schtick doesn’t work the same in all quarters.
Like all hangout movies, the real meat is in the details, like the idyllic scene where Jake and a muscle car full of baseballers rap along to “Rapper’s Delight”, or how the big attraction at the theater kids’ party is a version of the Dating Game staged with characters from Alice In Wonderland. It’s all pleasant enough, but after the triumph of 2014’s Boyhood, it kind of feels like Linklater’s phoning it in on this one.
The real test of a hangout movie is the strength of the characters, but besides Deutch, none of the actors really rise to the occasion. Jenner’s Jake is a such a bland, nice guy type that Linklater’s attempts to imbue him with hidden depth ring a little false. Everybody Wants Some!! Is not a bad movie, it’s just a little dull. But if you count yourself among the legions of Dazed and Confused fans, you’ll find a lot to like.