Synopsis: A group of college baseball players navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood.
Stars: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Ryan Guzman, Juston Street, Glen Powell, Temple Baker, J. Quinton Johnson, Will Brittain, Zoey Deutch
Director: Richard Linklater
Running Length: 117 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (9/10)
Review: Everybody Wants Some!! is being promoted as a “spiritual sequel” to director Richard Linklater’s cult favorite from 1993, Dazed and Confused. While Dazed takes place on the last day of high school in 1976, EWS!! follows a team of college baseball players over the course of a long weekend in 1980 before school starts up again. Even though there are no overlapping characters between the films, it’s not hard to imagine Blake Jenner’s leading player in EWS!! as a college-ready version of the character Wiley Wiggins played in the earlier film.
For EWS!! to play well as an almost sequel to a much loved near-classic that’s now become almost as much of a cinematic rite of passage as the various hazing sequences it showcases, it has to have something that sets it apart. Once again, Linklater (Bernie, Boyhood, Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight) shows his knack for perfect casting by bringing together a host of handsome stars on the rise to populate his otherwise plotless observances of the last days of summer for a college baseball team.
Incoming freshman Jake Bradford (a winning, mellow Blake Jenner), arrives at his off campus housing on a Friday and spends the next three days getting to know his teammates, his surroundings, and himself. Clearly influenced by Linklater’s own life, the character isn’t your typical meek newbie nor is he a loutish oaf that scores high on the d-bag meter. Actually, even with its brief divergences into misogyny (there’s but one female role in the film that isn’t there to bed or bitch about), the film largely avoids the stereotypical frat boy trappings by providing actual personalities for its competitively horny young males.
Originally brought into the fold by team captain McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin, reminding me of a young Matt Dillon), Jake starts to learn the ropes from teammates like Glenn Powell’s (The Expendables 3) Finn, who can talk about anything from girls to gentrification and Wyatt Russell’s (22 Jump Street) Willoughby, a stoner that encourages everyone to “just be weird”. There’s also the requisite dimbulb (Temple Baker), the sensible voice of reason (J. Quinton Johnson), a county-fried roommate (Will Brittain), and an easily provoked pitcher (Juston Street, the only faulty bit of character machinery in Linklater’s otherwise smooth engine of a movie) that pop up throughout the film to join in the weekend hijinks. As the lone prominent female, Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy) more than holds her own as a matched equal to Jake that isn’t your typical co-ed. It’s not hard to picture Deutch’s mother Lea Thompson playing the same role had the film been made thirty years ago.
Since the casting is top notch, that means the acting is skilled too and the three weeks the actors spent rehearsing all day at Linklater’s Texas compound pays off well because you walk away totally buying the characters you just watched, flaws and all. It has the same sharp wisdom and warm hope Linklater is so good at injecting into his films and pleasantly goes against the structural norm of these college set film by following these guys only up until the first bell rings on Monday morning.
It’s not often I leave a theater already figuring out when I can swing by and catch it again but I left EWS!! plotting a return visit. I appreciate that Linklater has a way of making his films so accessible that it’s easy to watch them over and over again and, even if you don’t get anything new out of each watch, still be entertained.