‘Everybody Wants Some:’ The jocks are all right

12:00 a.m. Thursday, March 31, 2016 Movies & TV

As enjoyable as moments are in Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some” — and there are plenty in this very well-acted, well-shot, elegantly edited comedy — how you feel about it by the end might revolve around how you feel about spending nearly two hours with guys who may or may not have beaten you up in high school.

Linklater may be one of the most beloved American filmmakers of the age, but the dude did play baseball at Sam Houston State, and at its core, “Everybody Wants Some” is, in fact, a film about jocks — charming as they can be.

One of the great things about Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused” — to which “Everybody” has been called a “spiritual sequel” — was the array of voices and types: guys and girls thrown together in a public school. A whole lot of different personalities and worldviews are packed into that still brilliant ’70s stew.

In “Everybody,” the self-segregation that comes with college — especially with college sports — has already begun. Which is to say, you are forgiven if you have trouble telling all of these white guys with terrible haircuts and mustaches apart.

And, real talk, a movie that opens with “My Sharona” is, by its very nature, going to be less awesome than a movie that starts with “Sweet Emotion.” That is just science.

It is three days before school starts at an unnamed Texas college in mid-August 1980. Jake (Blake Jenner and his distractingly broad shoulders) is an incoming freshman pitcher who moves into the baseball house, where most of the team lives. The other players are, generally, not impressed. Jake may have been a high school star, but this is college ball.

There’s McReynolds the power hitter (Tyler Hoechlin, rocking a ’stache worthy of Billy Crudup in “Almost Famous”), Finn (Glen Powell, never better), Dale (J. Quinton Johnson), and Roper (Ryan Guzman). All the pitchers are strange in different ways. Indeed, Willoughby (a terrific Wyatt Russell in full not-quite-Owen-Wilson mode), the sage stoner, actually encourages Jake to find his inner weird. Niles (Juston Street) is the overcompetitive lunatic.

Linklater’s eye for baseball detail is good — and actually a little underused here. Had there been a bit more baseball in “Everybody,” it could have become a truly great movie about the game at small colleges. Which is to say, there is still room for that movie to be made.

At a South by Southwest panel a few days after the film premiered, Linklater said his alleged college baseball movie features no college and very little baseball and didn’t feature more actual playing because any given game on TV is going to be more dramatic, inherently, than anything he could come up with. True enough, but it would have been nice to see just a bit more about the specific baseball-ness of these personality types.

This is material to which Linklater seems very close, a rambling hangout film executed with his rhythms and drift intact.

And, yes, the jocks are a bit more charming than the ones you might recall. They go from party to overcompetitive pingpong game to keg stand, yacking about what it all means. We see them try on various identities — disco, kicker Western bar, punk club with band played by the Riverboat Gamblers — which is of course a metaphor for the searching that comes in college’s early days.

Save for Jake’s increasingly earnest relationship with the theater and dance major Beverly (Zoey Deutch), women are pretty well nonexistent — except as that which is hit on. Even in a 1980s setting, using “feminist” and “lesbian” as punchlines seems unnecessary. If anything, this environment seems more regressive than the 1976 of “Dazed.”

Perhaps there is more critique in here than I am giving “Everybody” credit for — Linklater has said we are supposed to laugh at these doofs.

Except identification with that which we see on screen is part of how films work — a “machine that generates empathy,” as Roger Ebert put it. “Everybody Wants Some” is still a movie about jocks ages 18 to 21. And we never, ever leave their sides.

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