Richard Linklater's “Dazed and Confused” follow up is fun, but doesn’t live up to its predecessor’s greatness.
By Adam Hlava
Twenty three years ago, director Richard Linklater gave us a peek into a day in the life of a group of teenagers at the end of the 1976 school year with Dazed and Confused. It would go on to launch the careers of Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck and Milla Jovovich and become a cult classic. The beauty of that film was not only in the variety of characters and their quotable one-liners (“alright alright alright”) but the world that Linklater built felt genuine and real. When you watched Dazed you felt like these characters existed in the world and and weren’t just an assembly of caricatures. For the most part he is able to replicate this in his latest film about early adulthood angst.
We’re once again taken back to the world of young adult partying and hi-jinks from decades past with Everybody Wants Some, billed as a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused (although there’s no story connection between the two). This time the party animals are in college, and while there’s a minor element of freshmen vs senior rivalry, everybody pretty much gets along and is ready to live life to the fullest from the get-go. Set at a Texas college in 1980, the story follows the school's baseball team as they squeeze every minute out of boozing and attempting to hook up with girls the weekend before classes begin. The main character is freshman Jake, who moves into the house already occupied by his misfit teammates. The characters are all basically a variation of the partying jock, each with their own little quirks. You’ve got your redneck jock, your stoner jock, the alpha-male jock, and everything in between. There isn’t the same level of variety in the characters that we saw in Dazed, which spanned various smaller groups of friends. But here the boys are diverse enough that it makes for some interesting dynamics.
The film has a strong sense of place, and does great job transporting the audience back to 1980. The hair, the fashion, and the music are all authentic to the period. The mustache game is strong here, and there’s a nice blend of disco, synth pop and early hip hop as the boys philander about. Much like Dazed, Linklater is able to create a believable world and realistic characters.
Where Dazed and Everybody Wants Some differ greatly is really is in the notion of a character progression. Jake shows up the weekend before school starts, and within the first ten minutes of the move he and the fellas are already up to their boozing and partying (unsupervised adulthood has its perks, after all). A lot of the characters had just met that weekend for the first time but acted as though they’d been lifelong friends. At least in Dazed you followed Mitch Kramer from the freshman getting his ass paddled by the seniors to actually getting to hang out with them. Everybody Wants Some suffers a bit by not really having much in terms of conflict for the main character, he’s already where he wants to be at the beginning of the film.
Linklater has an interesting approach in that it at no point does the film pretend to be some sort of coming of age tale, or a story of a loner or nerd who learns how to be cool and have fun. Jake and the other freshmen show up to the house and are immediately pretty cool (albeit quirky) and ready to party. It’s a slice of life for a group of bros taking full advantage of the freedom of 1st time adulthood. Ten years ago I graduated from the University of Wisconsin (well known as an educational institute of the partying-sort), so watching this movie felt in some ways like a trip down memory lane. It succeeds in instilling a sense of nostalgia, whether it’s for the general good old days of college debauchery or for those who grew up in the ‘80’s. Everybody Wants Some falls short of the universal appeal of Dazed, and doesn’t quite have the same resonance mostly due to the lack of a compelling main character, but there’s still a fun time to be had and you’ll wish you could be there having a beer with these guys.
Everybody Wants Some!! opens nationwide April 8th.
Verdict: 3 1/2 out of 5 Seats