Published In The Long Island Voice JUNE 11-17, 1998






By Nick Krewen


Summer teen movies usually have their stock characters and situations, and Can't Hardly Wait is no exception. At Huntington High, there are four male social cliques: The jocks, the nerds, the trendoids, and the outsiders -- the latter an intellectual group that usually follows their own independent pursuits, observes from afar and has a sarcastic comment for everyone.

These peer groups usually avoid each other like the plague, but in Can't Hardly Wait  they're all drawn together for the big post-grad blowout -- a house party that symbolizes the imaginary dotted line between adolescence and adulthood.

Preston Meyers (Ethan Embry) is clearly ready to make the transition. An aspiring writer who is about to depart for a Boston college, he has few qualms about leaving secondary education behind. That is, until he learns that superjock Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli) has broken off with Amanda Beckett (Party Of Five's Jennifer Love Hewitt), the previously unattainable dream girl who Preston has had a crush on forever.

"It's a sign!" he confesses to cerebral pal Denise Fleming (Lauren Ambrose), explaining that a shared preference for strawberry pop tarts convinced him Amanda was his true love. He pulls out a love letter he wrote four years ago that expresses his feelings, and declares to Denise that the Big Bash is the place where he'll deliver it...if he can summon up the courage.

Meanwhile, Mike Dexter has got his own plans. He wants his three jock buddies to ditch their girlfriends for one last beer-soaked summer together bagging babes. Here's where the geek factor kicks in: William Lichter (Charlie Korsmo) wants revenge for the constant humiliation he's suffered at the hands of Dexter, and tonight's the night.

The final oddball is horny 2Pac wannabe Kenny Fisher (Seth Green), whose party mission is to "offer ten lucky women a piece of `Special K'." Surprisingly, no one jumps.

Calamity ensues, and first-time writers and directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont do an admirable job on Can't Hardly Wait , a better-than-average teen movie that has enough unexpected plot detours, a decent script and some humorous scenes to keep it constantly entertaining.

It's the fine performances of the talented ensemble -- especially Green and Korsmo, who inject the precise amount of hambone into their character transformations -- that make the film click. Wounded puppy dog Embry is perpetually huggable, and Hewitt plays Amanda with suitable emotional substance.

The only questionable plot point is the repeated use of Barry Manilow's "Mandy" as Preston's theme song. Barry Manilow? . C'mon! Nobody is that square!




A Columbia Pictures Release. Directed by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont. Now Playing (June 12).



THANKS: Beth Rimmels

© 1998, 1999 Nick Krewen



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