Sony // 1998 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // October 8th, 2008
Yesterday's history. Tomorrow's the future. Tonight's the party.
I first saw Can't Hardly Wait in the theater during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. At the time, I was left feeling sort of "eh" about the film. Looking back, it's easy to see why. First, I was difficult to impress. John Hughes still made the best high school movies as far as I was concerned, and I just didn't think the movie lived up to The Breakfast Club. Also, I was just starting to break away from mainstream culture in my tastes, discovering new bands and movies that hadn't made it big. Having Smash Mouth and Eve 6 (not to mention Jennifer Love Hewitt) in the film didn't do much to pique my interests. Finally, the film wasn't anything like my high school experience. The social groups weren't this stereotypical, and there's not a chance in Hades that they all would have ended up at the same party. Plus, the film was just a little too Pollyanna, with nothing to make it "edgy" or "cool."
Now it's ten years later, and Sony has seen fit to give fans Can't Hardly Wait: 10 Year Reunion Edition, complete with new extras. Luckily, the film's charms have aged well, and this time around I enjoyed it quite a bit more.
It's the night of graduation for seniors at Huntington Hills High, and there's a party that everyone will be at. Despite the huge party, the big news at school is that jock Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli, Riding in Cars with Boys) has broken up with his gorgeous girlfriend Amanda (Jennifer Love Hewitt, I Know What You Did Last Summer). This is excellent news to Preston Myers, because he's had a crush on Amanda for four long years, while she hasn't noticed him. Meanwhile, young Kenny (Seth Green, The Italian Job) is looking to get laid for the first time before he heads off to college. Instead, he gets locked in a bathroom with Ethan's friend Denise (Lauren Ambrose, Psycho Beach Party). It's a night of misunderstandings and missed opportunities as everyone tries to enjoy their last night of high school.
Although I enjoyed Can't Hardly Wait quite a bit this time around, I can't help but wonder what keeps it from falling apart. The story is really nothing new. There have been other massive party films, as well as other films that have shown the last day of school (Dazed and Confused comes to mind for both categories). Pretty much all of the characters are stereotypes, fitting neatly into the "popular," "jock," "geek," etc. categories. Yet despite this, the film hangs together surprisingly well.
The vast majority of the credit for this feat goes to the amazing actors in the principle roles. Many others have played wannabe B-boys, but none that I can recall have done it with the gusto (and hilarious accent) of Seth Green. Kenny could easily have been the most obnoxious character of the '90s, but in Green's hands he becomes a vulnerable, rounded character. Ethan Embry's Preston doesn't quite reach the lovelorn heights of John Cusack in Say Anything, but he does make his character seem like a regular guy. This helps, because otherwise Preston would seem like a really creepy stalker. Lauren Ambrose plays Preston's best friend with warmth that makes her withering sarcasm all the funnier. It also helps that she plays the character like a regular person, not like someone glamorous who is slumming for the role. Jennifer Love Hewitt isn't given much to do as Amanda, but she brings a sweet sincerity to the role that is surprising. Finally, kudos to Charlie Korsmo for playing a charming, likable geek. Hollywood needs more of those.
While I want to give the main cast loads of credit, this film is more fun to watch now because of the careers of so many of the supporting cast. Seriously, Can't Hardly Wait needs to be watched with IMDb open, because at least once you'll probably say something like "I know that guy, what was he?" You can expect to see cameos from the likes of Jerry O'Connell, Jenna Elfman, and Breckin Meyer. Plus, there are blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearances by Amber Benson (of Buffy Fame), Selma Blair, Chris Owen, and Clea Duvall. All these various characters interweaving make the ho-hum story more interesting.
Can't Hardly Wait has garnered quite a cult of fans over the last ten years, and they'll likely be pleased with the DVD package. The video isn't going to blow anyone away, but for a ten-year-old teen comedy of modest means the transfer looks pretty good. There's a bit of noise here and there, and colors don't quite pop like I'd like, but nothing bad enough to detract from viewing enjoyment. The audio fares slightly better. The pop soundtrack is presented clearly, and there's never an issues with dialogue balance.
Extras, however, are where fans will be most impressed. Along with the original cast and crew commentary from the first DVD, we get a ten-year reunion commentary featuring the directors, Seth Green, Peter Facinelli, Donald Faison, and Joel Michaely. They share some remembrances of the production as well as a bit of "where are they now" info. They're obviously comfortable with each other, and the jokes fly fast and thick. There are also two different featurettes on the making of the film, both of which feature extensive interviews with the cast and crew. There's also "The Life of the Party," where the cast share their own partying stories. There's a trivia track that's tries too hard to be funny, as well as some deleted that don't do much to flesh out the story. For nostalgia fans, there's a video for Smashmouth's "I Can't Get Enough of You Baby," and a '90s trivia game.
Can't Hardly Wait should have been an R-rated film. The writer/directors intended a harder film, but their distributor balked since the runaway success of American Pie's raunchy comedy was still a year away. What we're left with is a neutered comedy, with a beer bong digitally edited out (poorly), and no explanation for Amber Benson's obsession with the banana. While I'm glad that the theatrical release of Can't Hardly Wait is being given a fair edition because of its nostalgia value, it would be nice if Sony released a director's cut as well.
Can't Hardly Wait doesn't quite belong in the upper echelon of teen comedy classics, but for anyone who grew up in the late '90s, it's probably going to provoke a lot of knowing smiles and happy memories. For the tenth anniversary, Sony has replaced the previous edition with a new one featuring even more extras and reminiscent from the cast and crew. For fans it's an easy purchase, and for the uninitiated I can solidly recommend a rental.
I Can't Hardly Wait to rule this film not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2008 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Original Commentary with Cast and Filmmakers
* Reunion Commentary with Cast and Filmmakers
* Deleted Scenes
* "Huntington Hills High Class of '98 Reunion"
* "Can't Hardly Wait: The Making of a Teen Classic"
* "The Life of the Party"
* You Know You're '90s If... Trivia Game
* Special K's 411 Trak Yo'
* "I Can't Get Enough of You Baby" Music Video