Can't Hardly Wait [Blu-Ray]
Director : Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont
Screenplay : Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 1998
Stars : Ethan Embry (Preston Meyers), Jennifer Love Hewitt (Amanda Beckett), Peter Facinelli (Mike Dexter), Lauren Ambrose (Denise Fleming), Seth Green (Kenny Fisher), Charlie Korsmo (William Lichter), Jerry O’Connell (Trip McNeely), Melissa Joan Hart (Yearbook Girl), Jenna Elfman (Angel), Amber Benson (Stephanie)
Given that the late 1990s witnessed the unlikely resurrection of the teen slasher genre with Scream (1996), Scream 2 (1997), and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), it was only a matter of time before someone decided to revive its counterpart, the teen romance/comedy genre. It turned out that 1998 was that time, with Can’t Hardly Wait being one of the first to dive headfirst into the largely abandoned teen-comedy waters, which would soon glutted with the likes of American Pie (1999) and its sequels, She’s All That (1999), Bring It On (2000), and many others.
In terms of plot, character, and tone, Can’t Hardly Wait sits somewhere between the early-’80s John Hughes oeuvre and the more raunchy comedies like Porky’s (1981). While Can’t Hardly Wait offers a few vaguely moving moments of teen melodrama and a handful of outright funny moments, the most interesting aspect of the film is how little the depiction of teenage life in the movies had changed in the 15 years between it and Sixteen Candles (1984), the film it most closely resembles. Like John Hughes’s directorial debut, Can’t Hardly Wait has a highly energetic tone balanced with a soft romantic plot; it features the same kind of exaggerated generification of high school social classes (jocks, nerds, potheads, etc.), a huge party that trashes someone’s house, and a sensitive protagonist pining away for someone who seems far out of reach. In short, the essentials.
In this case, the protagonist is Preston Meyers (Ethan Embry), a quiet, introspective boy who likes to read, believes in true love, and lists Kurt Vonnegut instead of an overpaid athlete or drug-addled rock star as his hero. Preston has had his eye on the lovely Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt) ever since freshman year when she was the new girl in school, and he is sure that it is their fate to one day be together. Unfortunately, the film’s token superficial super-jock, Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli), snatched Amanda up four years ago and they have been dating exclusively ever since.
However, on the day of senior graduation, the rumor mill is churning about how Mike has dumped Amanda. This sets Preston up for the moment he’s been anticipating for four years: the chance to spill his heart to his one true love and give her a letter he’s been working on since he was a freshman (ahh--a true writer). Naturally, Preston’s best friend, a smart and cynical girl named Denise (Lauren Ambrose), isn’t so sure. Plans like this seem meant for disaster, which also goes for William Lichter (Charlie Korsmo), the class valedictorian and textbook 50-pound nerd, who has been planning to enact his revenge Mike Baxter for humiliating him over the years.
The majority of the film takes place at a wild, all-night keg-party following graduation, which allows the first-time director/screenwriter duo Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont (who most recently wrote Made of Honor) a wealth of opportunity for developing the multiple plot-lines and twisting them together. As the action predictably moves ahead, the air is filled with the thumping beat of ’90s rock and pop songs, as well as some ’80s relics like Guns’n’Roses’s “Paradise City,” Young M.C.’s “Bust a Move,” and (my favorite) the long-but-shouldn’t-be forgotten Dire Straits love ballad “Romeo and Juliet” (the inclusion of that great song is worth half a star alone). There’s plenty of underage beer guzzling, back-slapping, and trading stories about seventh grade; it’s a milestone moment for these graduates, and they’re set to make the most of it. So are Kaplan and Elfont: They obviously want this to be the end-all be-all of teen movie parties.
Unfortunately, most of Can’t Hardly Wait feels a bit trite; too much of it comes off like warmed-over jokes from other teen romp flicks. Although the film offers Preston as an exception to the stereotype of teenagers as vapid airheads who think of nothing but sex and drinking, Ethan Embry comes across as just a bit too goofy in his quest to make sure we realize Preston is shy and sensitive. Lauren Ambrose, on the other hand, does a beautiful job of indicating sensitivity and intelligence in Denise, cutting an edge without being too ironically distanced. Kaplan and Elfont develop an interesting mismatch relationship between her and Kenny Fisher (Seth Green), whose incessant hip-hop posturing is merely a guise for his insecurity (not surprisingly, Green nearly runs away with the movie in every scene he’s in, striking a perfectly hilarious balancing act between the ridiculous and the sympathetic). As the object of Preston’s much-repressed affections, Jennifer Love Hewitt proves once again that she has a sweet, radiating screen presence, but her character feels woefully underdeveloped; she’s the center of Preston’s world, but we never seem to learn much about her. She drops hints and glimpses of being a potentially interesting character, but unfortunately the screenplay never gives us much to go on.
But, shallow characterization shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since Can’t Hardly Wait is essentially what all movies of its type are about: social equalization. The formula is tried and true: Those who are popular in high school eventually find that to be the pinnacle of their lives, while the sensitive and thoughtful, who spend their teen years being stomped on, rise up to rule the world. “And the meek shall inherit the earth…”
|Can’t Hardly Wait “10 Year Reunion Edition” Blu-Ray|
|Subtitles||English, French, Indonesian, Korean, Thai, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese|
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||September 30, 2008|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|The new high-definition transfer of Can’t Hardly Wait has the film looking about as good as I can possibly imagine it looking. Colors are bright and pop off the screen with saturation and clarity, and black levels look solid throughout. There is some slight grain from time to time, but the image is certainly sharp and detailed. The Dolby Digital TrueHD surround soundtrack is well utilized at all times, whether it be the wide spacing of the whispering voices during the opening minutes, or the ambient sounds of the never-ending party, or the thumping vibe of the film’s cavalcade of music, which plays like a greatest hits of late ’90s pop and rock (Eve 6, Blink 182, The Replacements, Smash Mouth, Creed, etc.).|
|Aside from the inclusion of the audio commentary by cowriters/directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, producer Jenno Topping, and star Seth Green (who does a ridiculous British accent half the time) from the Special Edition DVD, all of the supplements on this “10 Year Reunion Edition” are brand-new. This includes an all-new commentary, which reunites Kaplan, Elfont, and Green and also adds in stars Peter Facinelli, Donald Faison, and Joel Michaely. The group has a good time reminiscing together about the film while swilling margaritas and talking over each other. There are also three retrospective featurettes that focus on different elements of the film, all of which include interviews with Kaplan, Elfont, casting director Mary Vernieu, and stars Ethan Embry, Seth Green, Donald Faison, Peter Facinelli, and Jenna Elfman, as well as a number of supporting actors who played characters with names like “X-Phile #2” and “Ready to Have Sex Girl” (conspicuously absent are Lauren Ambrose and Jennifer Love Hewitt, who were apparently too busy for this particular reunion). “Huntington Hills High School Class of ’98 Reunion” (26 min.), the longest of the trio, looks at the casting of the film, which, in retrospect, was fairly impressive given how many of the young actors have forged decent careers over the past decade. “Can’t Hardly Wait: The Making of a Teen Classic” (14 min.) is a general look back at the film’s production, with the most intriguing bit being Kaplan and Elfont ruminating on their various ideas for the film’s style, one of which included shooting it in “one take” Rope-style. “The Life of the Party” (9 min.) looks at how the film fits into the fabled teen party subgenre. There are also six deleted scenes (running a total of 7 minutes), which are really just bits trimmed from existing scenes (they are presented in nonanamorphic VHS quality). The “You Know You’re ’90s If…” trivia game is a mildly diverting amusement for those of that era (a ’90s high school and college graduate, I was proud to score 127 on the 10-question version, which means I’m “So ’90s”). Finally, there is “Special K’s 411 Track Yo,” which is a fun-facts trivia track, and Smash Mouth’s “I Can’t Get Enough of You Baby” music video.|
Copyright ©2008 James Kendrick
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