Can’t Hardly Wait (1998) — The perfect party movie

“I can’t feel my legs, I HAVE NO LEGS!”

Clare’s rating: Been there, done that.

Clare’s review: Ok, it’s high school graduation time and the class “nice guy who’s not a huge ladies man but seems like he’d be polite on a date if not a little weird” guy is questioning his future. The only thing he’s really sure about is that he’s totally hot for the class “misunderstood babe who’s got a heart of gold and no personality”. If you’ve seen Say Anything, you know this set-up. If you’ve seen Can’t Hardly Wait, you know just how poorly that set up can be executed.

OK, there’s a huge party the night of graduation that EVERYONE is going to go to that our hero (Preston Meyers as played by Ethan Embry) knows will be his opportunity to win over the girl of his dreams (Amanda Beckett played by J.L. Hewitt). (Again, maybe you’ve seen Say Anything?) Every stereotype and/or clique is represented at this party including the cranky girl who doesn’t like parties but for some reason goes to them anyway, the white suburban kid who thinks he’s from the ‘hood, the foreign exchange student, the rich bitch beauty queens, their idiot jock boyfriends, Star Wars-loving social misfits, stoners, etc. etc. etc.

However, instead of throwing all these different types of people together and seeing what kind of deeper understanding can be reached between the warring factions (a la The Breakfast Club) we just get to look at Jennifer Love Hewitt’s boobs for two hours and wonder out loud if Ethan Embry always looks like someone’s hit him in the head with a board right before the director yells “Action!”

In short, we’re supposed to care one way or another if Preston hooks up with Amanda but aren’t given any reason to since he seems like kind of a blond version of Keanu Reeves on a really bad day and she seems like a pretty girl skating through life hoping nobody notices she’s not actually very interesting.

However, there are two bright spots in this film. They are Lauren Ambrose and Seth Green who play Denise and Kenny (aforementioned cranky girl and hip hop white boy) who unwittingly get trapped in an upstairs bathroom together and are forced to figure out that they actually like one another. I love Lauren Ambrose and hope she becomes a big big super star diva extraordinare plus, she reminded me of me when I was in high school, so I was automatically rooting for her. Seth Green’s been around forever but actually proves to have a wee bit of range in this role and really is far more appealing and funny than Ethan Embry could ever be.

Here are the official rules to the Can’t Hardly Wait drinking game as determined by myself and my friend Rachel one VERY slow night at the Holiday Inn Express in Houston, Texas. Drink whenever any of the following things happen:

  • JL Hewitt’s breasts overshadow the entire frame she’s occupying or are in any other way completely distracting, offensive, confusing or hilarious.
  • Ethan Embry gets a close up shot where he looks like he’s staring off into the abyss or is in any other way clearly not home upstairs.
  • Seth Green says “Yo”
  • Lauren Ambrose rolls her eyes or in any other way looks annoyed.
  • The “geeks” make reference to either Star Wars, Star Trek or the X-files.
  • Dex (the jock) or any of his friends uses the word “dude” or any other salutation derivative of the word “man”

Seems simple enough, but believe me, there are potions of the film where pretty much all of these things happen simultaneously. Good luck, be safe and have fun!

Justin’s rating: Will you go out with me? [check yes/no/maybe]

Justin’s review: Recognizing the brilliance of ’80s comedies, filmmakers are now reviving the art known as the “party movie.” Basically, you have a large cast of characters who discover themselves and others (usually through drugs and lots of car crashes) over the course of one night at one big party. It kinda makes high school irrelevant afterwards.

Can’t Hardly Wait rocks so hard that you’ll be feeling the back of your head for lumps afterward. Well, nah, I mean, it’s a really groovy flick that has immense rewatchable value; I used to view this once a week, minimum, during a certain year of my life. I think I honestly needed therapy back then, but Seth Green as “Special K” was an acceptable substitute.

The film sets us up with a group of high school seniors on their graduation night. Amanda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) has been dumped by super-jock Mike Dexter, and now Preston (Ethan Pembry) thinks he can finally make his move and declare undying love for her. Other involved parties are Denise, a sarcastic cynic who gets locked in the bathroom with Kenny (Seth Green), a white boy wantin’ to be a gangsta; a group of nerds planning revenge on the jocks; a band playing their first gig; and a foreign exchange student learning how to talk dirty.

The whole group of kids are extremely likable, and — despite the sex and drinking — there’s even a fairly innocent vibe to it all. It’s just a bunch of people having fun, throwing out snappy quotes left and right, and entertaining you nonstop.

This film has grown on me. I wasn’t ecstatic the first time I saw it, but now it’s starting to make headway into the my top 20 favorite comedies of all time. It borrows heavily from old classics, such as the talk-to-the-camera schtick of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the party theme of movies like Sixteen Candles, and the optimistic romantic found in Say Anything. And the borrowing ain’t bad.

Seth Green is showing himself to be a great comedic force of today, and his role as Kenny is hysterical (for background, see The Offspring’s “Pretty Fly for a White Guy”). He tries to act gangsta so bad that you nearly need a linguist to interpret his talk. After this film and Austin Powers, we hope to see Seth cater to our generation more than, say, Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Don’t get me wrong: She’s pretty, but there’s not a lot of personality that comes out of her beyond that. I still have an eye twitch from I Know What You Did Last Summer, and in this film she just meanders around depressed and grumpy. Preston deserves so much better than her, but watchers can’t be choosers. Or can we?

So what is at the core of the chaotic universe of Can’t Hardly Wait? It’s a look back at the hell at which we all hate in retrospect: high school. It’s a running commentary on fate and The One. It tells us that if we get drunk, we will soon become popular. So perhaps we ought not to take this film too close to heart, but just enjoy the romp and look forward to college.

Want more? Check out the Mutant Viewing of Can’t Hardly Wait!

Didja Notice? 

  • Try to spot the “Making out couple” in the background throughout the movie. It’s like a Where’s Waldo game.
  • The kleptomaniac
  • The name of the band: Loveburger
  • Kenny’s love kit
  • The scene with the two X-philies during the end credits
  • Mike Dexter talking at the end of the credits
  • Jenna Elfman, Melissa Joan Hart, and Jerry O’Connell in unbilled roles
  • Smashmouth is played four times during the movie

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