After an acclaimed premiere at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival, Everybody Wants Some!!, is set to release this weekend at theaters across the country. I had the fortune of seeing it this past Monday night at The Ritz and the main thing I can say about this movie is, I feel like maybe I am missing something. Seriously.
I was surrounded by people who were literally laughing out loud as I looked around wondering why I didn’t get the joke. Don’t get me wrong there were some moments that were worthy of a good laugh or giggle but overall, this movie is dryer than the Clark Family Christmas turkey in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Now, I love a good dry comedy, Napoleon Dynamite was like that and it actually took a few viewings for me to really fall in love with the cult classic. But after one viewing, I liked it enough to actually want to watch it again. However, this latest creation from a director that gave me one of my all-time favorite movies, Dazed and Confused, doesn’t give me the same feeling.
To start, this felt like an unofficial sequel to Dazed, literally. DAC follows Texas high school students on their last day of school as they get ready to engage in the traditional hazing of the incoming freshmen. EWS!! follows a former high school baseball star for the first 3 days before classes officially begin for his freshman year of college. Am I the only one who sees that connection? Hmmmm….Just like in DAC, there are hazing rituals and parties and both movies do an excellent job at giving you a full scope of your average American school experience, in a short amount of time.
Richard Linklater, who wrote and directed both films, also does an amazing job of developing a large amount of characters in an ensemble driven movie. Where some movies can’t even accomplish that with one main character, Linklater is excellent at using the group itself to foster the individual identities. In a story with over 10 featured characters, you get a sense of who they all are, from the supporting characters to the main. Both films have a central character that is used to navigate you through the overall group, and in both cases, this character is someone who seems to be struggling a bit with finding their identity. However, that path to growing up and owning your individuality is used to drive the plot and bring some form of resolution in DAC, where as, in EWS!! it doesn’t seem to be as authentic and more just a lazy plot device to justify different party scenes on a large college campus and this is where EWS starts to fall short.
Blake Jenner plays Jake, the first character we see and the guy whose experience is used to guide us through the three days of partying, reveling in being a star jock, and expanding your social circle. He’s laidback, social, and generally a likeable character. However, you keep thinking that something more is going to happen but it just never goes anywhere. His character seems to be there solely to expose us to the other cast members personalities. His big breakthrough in the movie comes from meeting a girl he has an actual connection with and pursuing that seriously however that doesn’t stop him from participating in the usual drunken, casual, hook up culture he is surrounded by with his fellow teammates.
Overall the movie is dry and slow moving and while some of the characters are genuinely funny, few of them are interesting enough to redeem the movie. It is virtually impossible not to compare this movie to Dazed and Confused the similarities are just overwhelming. But the differences are what makes DAC a better movie. It has a better rhythm, driven by a soundtrack that is almost its own character, it does a better job of exploring the different cliques and scenes within the greater community itself and also does a better job of bringing them together. It also has an actual story arc with an actual conflict and a resolution however, mid-way through Everybody Wants Some!! you realize you are just going to drift around with no real driving plot.
The biggest build up in the movie, a weird freshman pitcher rumored to have been scouted by the pros who eventually shows his skills at preseason training, falls short when the seasoned hitter played by Tyler Hoechlin is able to get a hit from one of his infamous fastballs. That brings us to another story let down as Jake takes his turn on the mound and you think he is going to surprise you and he will be the one to strike out the star hitter but alas, that would be from way out in left field (pardon the baseball pun) for a movie that spends too much time focused on the mundane happenings in the bull pen and not enough time with their eye on the ball.
DAC was a breakout movie for many of Hollywood’s current stars including Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, Rory Cochrane, and more. However, EWS!! brings us a seasoned, predominantly male cast that just doesn’t bring us the same kind of diversity in characters as Dazed did. Many of the characters look a little old to be in college. At one point, Nesbit played by 28 year old Austin Amelio who looks to be in his mid to late 30’s, delivers the news that another teammate, played by the 29 year old son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn who is one of the few characters that does not look too old to be attending university, has been discovered to be a 30 year old adult posing as a college student and has been asked to leave. My mind was blown by this strange moment and fell to pieces even further to find out Amelio’s true age was 28. I lie to you not, I am 37 and look younger than this man did in this movie.
If Richard Linklater had not written and directed both these movies, you would probably leave the theater feeling like someone just did a bad job of ripping of one of his greatest pieces of work. Instead you leave wondering, why did he do this? What did he hope to accomplish? What is the point of this movie? All of these questions left me pondering this; why didn’t I just stay home and watch Dazed and Confused?
Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin
Release Date: April 8th, 2016