Richard Linklater's movies are filled with energy in small doses. Dense philosophical ramblings surround the flimsiest of plots; a casual air meets existentialism. While discussed for ages as a "spiritual sequel" to his seventies-set high school classic "Dazed and Confused" — and set just a few years later — the college baseball comedy "Everybody Wants Some!!" contains many of the best ingredients found throughout Linklater's career: A carefree attitude about life paired with sneakier observations about its deeper mysteries.
As with his sweeping "Before" trilogy and the ambitious 12-year production cycle of "Boyhood," the new movie also cleverly toys with time. Cramming three days of hard-partying antics into slightly less than two hours, "Everybody Wants Some!!" unfolds in the final days of summer at a small Texas college, in which the responsibilities of adulthood lurk just outside the frame. Endlessly charming and sneakily wise, "Everybody Wants Some!!" epitomizes Linklater's unique ability to magnify human behavior with levity.
Set in 1980 and dominated by goofy jocks sporting period-appropriate mustaches, the movie lingers in its vibrant characters' point of view. These include soft-spoken Jake (Blake Jenner), the boisterous Roeper (Ryan Guzman), stoner Willoughby (Wyatt Russell) and fast-talking ladies' man Nesbit (Ausin Amelio, whose lanky frame and chatty demeanor make him a natural heir to Matthew McConaughey's iconic "Dazed" persona). Careening through a series of lively parties and eventually playing a little ball, this group of grinning dudes are the engine of the minuscule plot. While Jake eventually develops promising chemistry with Beverly (Zoey Deutch), women remain largely sidelined by Linklater's masculine showcase, but the limited perspective gives the movie its main hook: Their naiveté is the whole point.
Set to a typically vibrant soundtrack that includes Blondie and Talking Heads, "Everybody Wants Some!!" turns passing asides into perceptive moments. Like the uptempo of those songs, its rhythms are both freewheeling and calculated. A prolonged bong-smoking session could be inserted into the vignette-based structure of "Slacker" and not look out of place: The prolonged sequence includes a keen Van Halen takedown, tidbits of anti-corporate screed, and a climactic attempt at telepathy that's only done partly in jest.
As Willoughby singles out music that finds "tangents within the framework," so too does Linklater establish a pattern of easygoing behavior that finds its way to bigger ideas. In the midst of a heated pool game, several beers deep, Nesbit considers the value in "being who you are, not what they want — that's when it gets fun." Such vague jabs at conformist society epitomize the reckless youth of many Linklater movies, including the ones in which older characters look back. But none of them crop up here, which gives "Everybody Wants Some!!" the aura of an R-rated "Peanuts" cartoon.
Simple and profound in equal doses, it's a poignant doodle from the master of tossed-off reflection. Whether discerning the meaning from the discovery of a single joint left atop a Pink Floyd album, or cackling their way through freshman hazing rituals — even when they're the butt of the joke — this raucous gang never stops grinning.
At times, "Everybody Wants Some!!" rolls along so casually that even its endearing characters can't salvage the meandering nature of the thin-boned plot, and not every chatty sequence merits the lengthy screen time. But it's a testament to the unique charisma of Linklater's ensemble and the steady hand driving the exposition that the movie never drags. Instead, Linklater provides a delightful snapshot of what it means to live without consequence. Just when class time finally arrives and it looks as though the good times may finally dissipate, "Everybody Wants Some!!" suggests it may be possible to keep the dream alive. With his ceaselessly thoughtful filmography, Linklater has done just that.
"Everybody Wants Some!!" opened the 2016 SXSW Film Festival. Paramount opens the film in limited release on April 1, followed by a nationwide expansion.