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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

07.26.2001

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flick pick | Can't Hardly Wait 1998
Directed + written by: Harry Elfont, Deborah Kaplan
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Lauren Ambrose, Seth Green, Charlie Korsmo, Peter Facinelli

Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
comedy
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:
 
dumb but fun
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: ˝/ 5 (but it gets better with repeated viewings!)

Plot synopsis It’s graduation day at Huntington Hills High School and no one’s paying attention to the poor guy giving a speech on stage. Instead, the big news is that jock Mike Dexter has just dumped girlfriend Amanda Beckett, class babe. Preston Meyers thinks fate has finally smiled down upon him: he’s been pining for Amanda since freshman year, when he first saw her pull out a strawberry Pop-tart from her backpack, the exact same kind of Pop-tart that he was eating at that precise moment. Tonight, the night of the graduation party, his destiny and Amanda’s will finally meet. And no amount of skepticism from his best friend Denise will convince him otherwise. Denise has no desire to spend an evening with 500 of her drunken classmates, none of whom have a clue who she is, since she’s made it a point to avoid all things high-school-related during the entirety of the past 4 years. Nonetheless, Preston convinces her to go to the party. While Preston vies for Amanda’s attention, Denise finds herself very alone, and very uncomfortable. Then things get worse when she’s inadvertently locked into a bathroom with her former childhood friend, Kenny Fisher, a white boy who speaks in ebonics. Meanwhile, after 4 years of enduring bullying and cruel jokes, William Lichter’s chosen this night to exact his revenge on Mike Dexter.

Review I have to confess my bias here: I love Seth Green. It takes some serious charisma to be able to render a pasty little redheaded guy attractive. So it’s entirely possible that his presence is what makes Can’t Hardly Wait so re-watchable for me. Truth be told, my first viewing left me pretty disappointed. Granted, my brother had described it to me as a 90s Say Anything, and pretty much any teen flick is going to be a letdown in comparison to that classic. But still, it has to be said, Preston Meyers is no Lloyd Dobler. The problem isn’t in how Ethan Embry plays him – he’s as charmingly goofy here as in Empire Records, and the relationship between Preston and best friend Denise [Ambrose] feels very real – but in the fact that you can’t help but think less of the character because he’s chosen vapid Jennifer Love Hewitt as the object of his obsession. And unlike Say Anything, Can’t Hardly Wait never bothers to flesh out its characters beyond their usual stereotypes (notably in the nerdy William Lichter [Korsmo] character, who’s just excruciatingly painful to watch every time he’s on-screen). But flaws aside, I find myself liking this movie more and more each time I watch it. The romance that develops between Green’s hilarious wanna-be homey-gangsta and Ambrose’s too-cool-for-high-school, alterna-chick Denise more than makes up for the lame one between the two leads, and moreover, the film offers some subtle, wonderful little surprises (like Jenna Elfman’s angel/stripper, and the kleptomaniac that keeps popping up periodically throughout the movie, but isn’t ever mentioned). This is one movie whose appeal sneaks up on you.  —reviewed by Y. Sun   

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