The best player on the 1980 Texas college baseball team lovingly depicted in Everybody Wants Some is a senior named Glen McReynolds, a guy who looks like he walked right off a faded Topps card and into a keg party. Played by former Teen Wolf star Tyler Hoechlin, Glen has the bulgiest muscles, the most luxuriant mustache, and the shit-eating grin of a guy who's sure he's going to go on as a pro athlete, that his life is going to become even more sweet than it already is. He's introduced by almost caving in a kitchen ceiling with the waterbed he's been setting up in the room above. He grinds every newcomer — including freshman main character Jake (Blake Jenner) — into the dirt to establish his dominance, and he handles losing very, very poorly. He's the distilled essence of sporty douchebaggery.
But during a lazy afternoon hang-out around the baseball team houses (a pair of much-abused buildings donated by the city to house its players), Glen proposes a bet: wielding an axe as a baseball bat, he can cut a baseball in half midair. The teammate who takes up his wager tosses the ball, and as Glen hefts the axe above his shoulder and whirls it around, the movie slows down as if — like everyone else there — it can't help but admire the easy certainty with which he pulls of this feat of strength and accuracy. Glen may be a asshole, but he's enthralling in his physical magnificence, and in that moment, you can't help but like him, even as he smirkingly offers to go two out of three.
The same could be said for most of the characters in Richard Linklater's resplendently baggy comedy, who are a collection of unapologetic bros from an era before that term was quite so loaded. They're the big men on campus, on the sports team with the best record at school; the film takes place in the three days before class starts, when they have nothing to do but spend time together before heading out to get laid. In between talking about athletics and talking about sex, they haze one another and turn everything — from knuckles to Ping-Pong — into a competition. They drift through the three rambly, story-light days over which the film exists in a cloud of booze and testosterone and, despite all of this, the end product is somehow still an experience you want to crawl inside.
Jake, Glen, the wisecracking Finnegan (Glen Powell), the tie-dyed Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), the tightly wound weirdo Jay (Juston Street), and other teammates like Roper (Ryan Guzman), and Dale (J. Quinton Johnson) are, in 2016, an almost unfathomably unfashionable slice of the student population to make a movie about. They joke about "cockgobblers" and how emasculated the only dude with a girlfriend is as they scramble to find rooms in which to bed the night's conquests. Their lives are pretty much ongoing dick-measuring contests. Only one of the characters, Finnegan, a roguish charmer, appears to have given any thought to life after baseball. They throw the kind of rowdy parties that might be incredibly fun, but at which you'd keep a really close eye on your drink.
Everybody Wants Some has been billed as a spiritual sequel to Linklater's 1993 Dazed and Confused, one of the greatest high school movies ever made. But that 1976-set comedy laid out a whole ecosystem of queen bees and coffee shop philosophers, rebellious football players and twentysomething holdouts trolling for teenage girls. Everybody Wants Some feels, at least at first, like a follow-up centered only on the equivalent of Affleck's preening Fred O'Bannion and his pals, high-fiving over the beatings they hand out to 14-year-olds — not the misfits and the losers, but the alphas and the bullies. And then, gradually, it reveals itself to be a sort of bro reclamation project. It doesn't soften the hyper-macho atmosphere of the baseball houses, but it does drain it of toxicity by affirming the bonds underneath, built by the constant ragging.
Everybody Wants Some's Jake is the successor of Mitch, the babyfaced, half-formed hero of Dazed and Confused; he arrives at college (and the '80s) broad-shouldered and confident after what was clearly a stint as a high school A-lister. It takes a few beats to see that underneath the swagger, he's another Linklater philosopher prince, a seeker of meaning and haver of long, pot-fueled conversations. Jake's open to people, and through his eyes we see the baseball players go from a brawny blur of jocks to a group of differentiated characters shoving and elbowing their way toward being a team. Over subsequent evenings, they sample different subcultures — the disco club, the country bar, a punk show, and a theater kid party — and if their motivation is to pick up chicks, the result is a buffet of possibilities, this feeling of worlds being open to visitors, whether for a jubilant line dance to "Cotton-Eyed Joe" or a minute in a mosh pit. It suggests identity is ultimately to be tried on and possibly discarded during the self-discovery of college: Everything isn't beautiful, precisely, but nothing hurts.
There's plenty of entitlement in assuming you'll be welcome wherever you go, but Everybody Wants Some is disarmingly forthright about how good its characters have it, with regard to their popularity, their desirability, and their privileged treatment by the school. And there's only one, lone moment that suggests there is any negative associations to being a jock: Beverly (Zoey Deutch), the winsome performing arts major who catches Jake's eye, is surprised to learn that Jake's on the baseball team, and he asks if her shock is because she expects athletes to be stupid... and that minor ding comes because she's already impressed by him. These characters are freed from present-day concerns about crippling college loans and, for that matter, the conversation about consent — the sex they have is portrayed with an idealistic enthusiasm on the part of all parties involved. College, as one character notes, is a place for equal opportunity sluttiness.
Has anyone ever loved college as much as Richard Linklater? In Dazed and Confused, it's the promiscuous paradise Don and Slater are holding out for, and it's where the last scene in Boyhood takes place, Mason going for a hike on mushrooms with his new roommate and two pretty girls, independent life sprawling out in front of him like the view. Everybody Wants Some, for all its careful vintage details — the short shorts and the soundtrack, the arcade games and the hairstyles (both head and facial) — isn't nostalgic for a era so much as it is for that particular moment in life when everything seems possible, and when classes are the least important part of school. It's a time so idyllic that at least one character overstays his welcome trying to hide in it a little longer. It's hard to fault him when the film itself has an ease that's addictively cozy, whether its characters feel familiar or far removed. They're an endearing bunch of — well, bros. In Linklater's dexterous hands, it doesn't feel like such a bad word.