Rated PG-13 - Running time: 1:38 - Released 6/12/98

Despite its running time of just over 1½ hours, Can't Hardly Wait, the teenage party movie written and directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, provided me with endless reminders of why I hated parties when I was that age. Grammatical errors aside, I thought this would probably be a turkey when I saw the trailer. But I thought it would just be harmlessly lame, with some badly executed message at the end. Nothing prepared me for just how stupid, shallow, and pointless it would be.

After graduation, the senior class is having a final blowout bash, and every stereotype is invited, such as: 1) Mike (Peter Facinelli), the fabulously handsome, conceited jerk who is captain of every sports team; 2) Amanda (Jennifer Love Hewitt), the most popular and beautiful girl in school, who dated Mike until he recently broke off the relationship, and is therefore no longer conceited but tragic and sympathetic; 3) Preston (Ethan Embry), the shy guy who has been trying for four years to tell Amanda that he loves her; 4) Denise (Lauren Ambrose), the cerebral, angry wit who feels superior to everyone in the class, but secretly wants to fit in; 5) William (Charlie Korsmo), the geeky genius who is class president and valedictorian but totally unpopular and made fun of by everyone except his fellow geeks; and finally, 6) Kenny (Seth Green), the kid who wants desperately to lose his virginity, and thinks because he has a backpack full of sex toys and a propensity for Ebonics (he's white), he'll have no trouble.

The film is basically just a linear presentation of this party, cutting back and forth between several sub-plots which all involve sex and/or alcohol. We follow Preston as he follows Amanda, carrying a four-year-old letter he wrote to her on the first day of freshman year. Amanda, depressed thoughout the party, is propositioned by just about every male, since she's "single" now. Though Mike has convinced all his cronies to dump their girlfriends like he did (so they can be free to have sex with anyone they meet in college), they back out because their girlfriends all seem willing to have sex now. And William's plan to get Mike back for four years of ridicule backfires when he gets so drunk he not only becomes Mike's friend, but the life of the party.

Jenna Elfman's surprise appearance as an angel is betrayed in the trailer, but she's not a real angel; she's only an stripper who's dressed as one, and really has no reason to be in the movie except to make the trailer look like there is some kind of supernatural theme to the flick.

Admittedly, there is some adequate acting by Hewitt and Ambrose, and a few sparse moments of actual connection between the characters. But these are so outweighed by the film's general stupidity, they don't stand a chance.

There have been ensemble high-school movies produced before that have had something to say, that were made with a conscience and a message. Titles like The Breakfast Club and Fame spring to mind. But this is the kind of pointless teen schlock one sees on USA Up All Night. It is an affront to the efforts made in the last few decades to educate the nation's youth about drug and alcohol abuse and casual sex. Thank goodness the local high school students I know are intelligent enough to see through this kind of tripe. Though the theater was full of them at my showing, they were hard-pressed to even chuckle, and I saw more than one of them walk out. *

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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