Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)

(On TV, September 2015)  From afar, there isn’t much here to distinguish Can’t Hardly Wait from endless teenage comedies: It’s all about a massive graduation party, with multiple subplots crashing into each other during the last big night of a group of high-school students.  There have been many, many, many movies revolving around the same issues (take a look at Project X for one of the latest), and most of the subplots are just as intensely familiar.  Still, watching Can’t Hardly Wait, it’s clear that the film succeeds at what it tries to do: despite the predictable plot points, the stereotypes, the sometimes-cheap jokes and the déjà-vu, there are a few chuckles and flashes of energy to the proceedings:  Take a look at the drunken-nerd sequence, or the way a letter finds its way from the trashcan to its intended recipient, for two representative examples.  For circa-2015 viewers, Can’t Hardly Wait has additionally gained a representative soundtrack of its time, and features (sometimes in very small roles) a dozen actors that have since made a career for themselves.  The best performances in the film probably go to Ethan Embry, Seth Green, Lauren Ambrose and Charlie Korsmo, but the cast in general is pretty good at what it tries to do.  Thanks to writer/directors Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan’s familiarity with the material they’re trying to emulate, the characters are often smarter than we think (Jennifer Love Hewitt has a spectacular speech that shreds a classic trope along the way) and there are odd twists of sub-plots (such as Jenna Elfman’s out-of-the-mists appearance) to keep things interesting.  Even jaded viewers may find themselves enjoying Can’t Hardly Wait despite themselves.

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