Is there a teen film as awesomely bad, terribly good, and overwhelmingly nostalgic as Can’t Hardly Wait? I doubt it. When it comes to teen comedies, this one holds the crown! Can’t Hardly Wait featured a cast of late-90s royalty, as well as just about every single teen movie stereotype and cliche crammed into the span of less than two hours. I was 13 years old when this film was released and have watched it dozens of times since, with my feelings towards certain scenes and characters fluctuating wildly over the years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is how wildly entertaining and borderline addictive watching this movie can be.
Can’t Hardly Wait follows the formula of most teen comedies in that it’s a movie about a guy who’s chasing after a girl. Except that nearly the entire film is set at a party, and the guy is “chasing” in the most roundabout, indirect way imaginable: via a love letter. Preston Meyers (Ethan Embry) has been in love with Amanda Beckett (jennifer Love Hewitt) for all four years of high school. But of course, since this is a 90s teen rom-com, “in love” means that he’s lusted after her secretly, without ever mustering the courage to speak to her, spending time learning her interests, or even formally introducing himself to her, instead relying solely on how her appearance makes his penis feel as “proof” that they are soulmates. How quaint.
After all this time spent pining over a girl who he only “knows” in passing, cute but cowardly Preston plucks up enough courage to write Amanda a letter upon learning that she’s recently broken up with her boyfriend, Mike (Peter Facinelli), and plans to give to her the letter at the big senior graduation party. Amanda discovers the letter, divorced from its author, and is moved to find Preston, but after an evening of getting hit on by every guy in the room, including her second-cousin, when Preston does finally approach her, she coldly rejects him. The way that Preston handles this rejection is, ironically (in my eyes), what makes him worthy of her in the end.
One of the cool things about Can’t Hardly Wait is that Preston and Amanda’s story, while interesting enough, it barely scratches the surface, as this movie is brimming with hilarious side stories from an ensemble cast with amazing chemistry. There’s Preston’s best friend, Denise (Lauren Ambrose), a smart, serious girl who finds herself inconveniently locked in with her childhood best friend and certified poser, Kenny (Seth Green), William (Charlie Korsmo), who is out to get revenge against Mike, his greatest bully, and a running montage of everyone in the senior class on their worst behaviour as they hook up, mess up, and show themselves to be as shallow as the average teen is often stereotyped to be.
In just one night, at just one party, friendships are created, re-established, cemented, and destroyed. Reputations are changed for the better and for the worse, and as people grow up and grow older, they find out who they really are, and which friends are still standing by their side. Can’t Hardly Wait is the quintessential teen flick, the litmus, and all of the elements are there! Average-looking, thin White girl with big breasts who is heralded as the epitome of beauty? Check! The jocks with not even an ounce of brains? Check! The beautiful girl lacking in substance, because heaven forbid a woman be beautiful and brilliant? Check! Bored, suburban White boys pretending to be everything they’re not? Check! The Nice Guys™ who are scared or offended by anything resembling rejection or criticism? Check! Exactly one Black girl, one Black guy, and the same Asian girl who was in Clueless and Drive Me Crazy, for diversity points? Check! When it comes to 90s American cinema, you can’t get more nostalgic than Can’t Hardly Wait, the movie which reminds us that 20 and 30-somethings used to play teenagers, Black really doesn’t crack, and that it is possible to aw-shucks your way into a relationship with someone who doesn’t even know that you exist! And tell me: What could be more unrealistically romantic than that?
I give this one 4 stars!