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'Can't Hardly' Stomach This

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 12, 1998

  Movie Critic

Can't Hardly Wait Ethan Embry has his eyes on Jennifer Love Hewitt in the teen comedy "Can't Hardly Wait." (TriStar)

Harry Elfont;
Deborah Kaplan
Jennifer Love Hewitt;
Ethan Embry;
Peter Facinelli;
Lauren Ambrose;
Charlie Korsmo;
Seth Green;
Jerry O'Connell;
Jenna Elfman
Running Time:
1 hour, 38 minutes
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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John Hughes must be spinning in his grave.

Well, all right, he's not dead yet; but the creator of such polished and multidimensional '80s teen comedies as "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club" and "Pretty in Pink" would probably have a cerebral aneurysm if he had to sit all the way through "Can't Hardly Wait," a painful and cliched feature-length music video about adolescent lust in that hellish microcosm of society called high school. The all-over-the-map soundtrack ranges from disco to hip-hop to Barry Manilow to-shudder-Nazareth's "Love Hurts."

Set at an alcohol- and hormone-addled graduation party, "Can't" concerns the unrequited love of aspiring writer Preston, played by the genial and winsome Ethan Embry. Since freshman year, he has secretly pined for the senior class ice princess Amanda (the pretty but vapid cipher Jennifer Love Hewitt). It is a love based chiefly on the not quite star-crossed fact that they were both eating strawberry Pop-Tarts in homeroom. Talk about kismet!

Now that Amanda has broken up with her dumb jock boyfriend Mike (Peter Facinelli), fate has granted Preston one last chance to tell Amanda his feelings before he rushes off to Dartmouth. Along the way, the audience is treated to a cardboard parade of such secondary school stereotypes as the Exchange Student, the Ready to Have Sex Girl and the Stoner Guy.

In addition to reducing each cast member to a walking yearbook quote, the writing and directing team of Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan seem unwilling-or unable-to create anything approaching intelligent or snappy dialogue when a well-timed roll of the eyes and a sarcastically delivered "whatever" will do just as well.

(On second thought, a lot of teenagers really do talk that way. Maybe that's why this film is so annoying.) "You're, like, totally Gwyneth," burbles one of Amanda's friends, in an effort to cheer her up with a compliment. "And Mike is not even Brad when he was in 'Twelve Monkeys' and he had that weird eye and was all dirty," coos another. Exactly.

Of course, in this pubescent Shangri-La of wishful thinking, there is no evidence of such real-world buzz-killers as pimples or parents. The only on-screen adults are a posse of policemen who arrive near the end to break up the party and restore sanity. Unfortunately, one has to sit through interminable minutes of juvenile sex and bathroom humor before that salvation in a blue uniform arrives.

True to the film's name, there is one thing I couldn't hardly wait for, and that's the closing credits. But don't rush out of the theater early. You wouldn't want to miss the de rigueur where-are-they-now epilogues that flash on screen to update the fortunes of the main characters.    

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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