Movie review: Linklater returns to 'Dazed' vibe in sort-of sequel that gets it right

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater has had one of the more interesting careers of any working American director. He makes films that are remarkably personal, and he's definitely got a wheelhouse, but there's also an unpredictability to his projects.

So if, like me, you were wondering how he would follow up the highly acclaimed, 12-years-in-the-making "Boyhood," here's your answer: He made a sort-of sequel to his breakout film "Dazed and Confused."

"Everybody Wants Some!!" (exclamation points in the title!) doesn't follow the characters of 1993's "Dazed," but it sure does follow the spirit. And that includes the laid-back and meandering plot. It can take a while to get on this movie's wavelength, but once you're there, it's an easy joy.

Though it has been marketed a bit as "'Dazed and Confused' meets the '80s," that's a bit of a mislead. This movie is set in a South Texas college town in 1980. Freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) has just arrived on a baseball scholarship.

The entire movie follows the events of Jake's first weekend of college life, counting down in mock dramatic fashion to the first day of class. But to quote Cardale Jones, they ain't come here to play school.

It's interesting to see Linklater revisit the "Dazed" vibe some two decades later, and there's an obvious autobiographical nature here. His protagonist Jake feels an awful lot like Wiley Wiggins' Mitch in "Dazed" - they'd be close enough in age for this to be a true sequel.

"Everyone" also follows in the footprints of "Dazed" in casting a bunch of affable unknown actors and actresses. Time will tell whether there are future stars like Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey here, but their ease on the screen suggests it's possible.

The nostalgia runs just as deep here, although the setting isn't as much of a touchpoint as the heart of the '70s was for "Dazed." No, the nostalgia here is for that first taste of freedom that comes before the responsibility sets in.

The entire movie is basically a group of lovable jocks wandering from discos to clubs to parties looking for a good time and to get laid. Linklater's perspective is fiercely fixated, but that's also what makes this movie an often funny, always warm good time. It's the feel-good hit of before the summer.

"Everybody Wants Some!!"

Opens Friday at the Gateway Film Center

3 1/2 stars out of 4