Over the course of two hours, Everybody Wants Some!!, Richard Linklater's "spiritual sequel" to 1993's Dazed and Confused, goes from detestable to damn near lovable—it's an eventually enjoyable movie that I almost walked out of. It's broad and cheesy and kind of porny, but eventually you come to realize that it's not "college" porn, but a very specific porn based on an idealized version of Linklater's own college experience. College hijinks have been done to death, but there's something endearing and slightly universal about a middle-aged man looking back on his college years and only remembering the parts that were super awesome(!!).
The story's set in 1980, in the days before classes start at a Texas college. As in Dazed and Confused, the protagonist is once again a baseball pitcher (Jake, played by Blake Jenner); the themes once again are hazing and finding yourself; and, once again, everyone is trying to get laid. The opening scene, with Jake driving his cool muscle car to "the baseball house" to meet his new teammates/roommates, is set to the Knack's "My Sharona" (ugh), which soon gives way to "Rapper's Delight," which the cast sings along to (ugh x 10). It feels a little like a musical theater production of Debbie Does Dallas.
The beer bongs 'n' babes vibe is equal parts watchable and irritating, because as much as I enjoy hot college girls in short shorts mud-wrestling, part of me hates that movies like this had me convinced that college was going to be a four-year Solo cup fuckfest. In reality, there was a lot more alienation and LAN parties. Which is part of why the traditional college myth has always felt mildly toxic to me: How many 18-year-old dudes have arrived at the dorms thinking the world owes them foam orgies? That said, who am I to say Texas in 1980 wasn't really like that? I guess I can pretend. Part of me wants to believe.
The porny-ness of Everybody Wants Some!! never really goes away, but you eventually accept it as a nostalgic love letter, with every one of Linklater's favorite college memories squeezed into three days of movie time. The sex feels a little too easy and the dudes a little too tool-y (it might not be that unrealistic—they are supposed to be baseball players, after all, indisputably the tooliest of all athletes), but if you can see past all the screwing and bad music, Linklater really does get the spirit of it right.
Most movies get male athlete group dynamics so wrong that when you actually find kernels of relatability, it feels like a revelation. Linklater's take on hazing ("everybody is going to be the chump at some point, it's how you handle your turn that defines you") is refreshingly unsensational. As is the movie as a whole. You know how in Magic Mike you kept expecting one of the characters to OD on drugs or get paralyzed in a car accident in order to teach everyone a valuable lesson? Then it never happens and you're happy to have avoided the moralizing? Everybody Wants Some!! is like that. It's about college, not learning.
Perhaps the strongest theme here, though, is the way college allows people to test-drive different identities. Everybody Wants Some!!'s characters aren't at all likeable at first—but let's be honest, neither were Dazed and Confused's. They're something of a mixed bag here too, from McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), a great athlete and an equally competent actor, to Jay (Juston Street), a character that probably should've been cut during spring training (that's how baseball works, right?). Hiccups aside, Everybody Wants Some!!'s defining quality is that, by the end, you sort of feel like part of the team, for better or worse. It's enjoyable and slightly ethereal, a fleeting fuck memory from glory days gone by.