THE QUEST FOR THE MOST ’90s FILM OF ALL TIME
Can’t Hardly Wait
Can’t Hardly Wait is the perfect summer movie to enjoy late at night with your high school buds, which is why I watched it alone on a June 12, 1998 afternoon. At the time, I was “in the note card stage” of a modern teen adaptation of Love’s Labours Lost, and I figured I had to “study the teen comedy genre.” Every fifteen-year-old boy is an asshole, but I was the absolute worst. I remember decrying the shoddy, stereotypical character development in my “film journal.” Years later, I’m writing in a different type of film journal about how the stereotypical character development is fun and kind of the point. The more things change, the more I watch Jennifer Love Hewitt vehicles by myself.
- Actors Who Are Unquestionably Tied to the Decade- Jennifer Love Hewitt [+10]
After doing two of her movies in a row, I’m just going to change this to an all-JLH quest. By 2014 I’ll be profiling The Tuxedo. The thing you don’t remember about her in Can’t Hardly Wait? Despite her MTV Movie Awards nomination in the lead category, she’s barely in it.
- Other Notable Actors- Too many to list [+15 max]
We open on a high school graduation in which details of a party are spreading by word-of-mouth [+5]. There is also a joke about a bro not wearing anything under his gown [+1]. While any graduation party is epic to those involved, our characters all have added investment.
1. Seth Green is a White guy “acting like a Black guy” [+3] who has determined that this is the night he’s going to get laid.
Ugh. I got this from an Angelfire website.
2. Breckin Meyer and Donald Faison are in a band that is “trying to get signed,” [+5] since there might be record execs at a high school graduation party?*
3. Charlie Korsmo—Robin Williams’ son in Hook—is going to get revenge on all the jocks by…getting them drunk, dragging them into the yard, knocking them out with chloroform, stripping them of their clothes, and taking lewd Polaroids [+1] of them? (Geez. Why don’t you just shoot up your school like a normal kid?)
4. But here’s the big one. Ethan Embry, of That Thing You Do,* has been pining for JLH for years, but she was always attached to her football-playing boyfriend Peter Facinelli. I mean, this guy is so cool that he wears his football jersey in class [+2]. But they finally broke up, so maybe this is Ethan Embry’s chance. He better give her that love letter tonight though, because he’s driving away to Dartmouth tomorrow [+5]! Forever!
Can we take a second here to appreciate the fake stakes of the “leaving for college tomorrow” trope? You just graduated today. Why are you going to college tomorrow? Doesn’t Dartmouth want you to waste the summer on some kind of internship? Later in the movie, our writer-directors explain this away by saying that he’s going there for “a workshop with Kurt Vonnegut,” but if I know the cynicism of Kurt Vonnegut, I know he’s not talking to incoming Dartmouth freshmen for three whole months. So you mean to tell me that Ethan Embry is going to listen to Vonnegut for, I’m thinking five days tops, then he’s going to sit in a freshmen dorm room in New Hampshire until August something? White guy acting like a Black guy please!
Anyway, one more note on the actors. You can tell how star-studded this was with this tidbit: Melissa Joan Hart, Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, and Jerry O’Connell appear in this film uncredited. This is like the It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World of movies that casually use the word “fag” in their dialogue [+2].
"Girl, you’re Gwyneth. And he’s definitely not Brad.” [+1]
- Could the Plot Reasonably Occur with Current Technology?
Yes, I suppose [-10]. As long as kids are having graduation parties that involve chloroform, the spirit of JLH will be there. But I hesitated here because there are so many plot points that depend upon analog technology. Instead of writing JLH a love letter,* today’s version of Ethan Embry probably would have memorized her Facebook profile and casually dropped all of her interests in conversation. He definitely wouldn’t have driven to a payphone in the middle of the night to call into a radio show* to see if Barry Manilow’s song “Mandy” was about a girl and not a dog [+5].
While we’re talking cultural relics, I have to mention the rock soundtrack [+5], since, you know, mainstream rock music doesn’t really exist anymore. But maybe we’re better off since the pinnacle of 1998 party music is Third Eye Blind, Creed, Sublime, 311, eve6, Blink-182, and TWO Smashmouth songs. RIP rock music.
We also get fleeting shots of Naya water bottles and Game Boys. Characters reference The X-Files and sought-after Pearl Jam tickets[+4].
The characters’ attitudes toward computers are really strange. By 1998, the Internet was around and useful, albeit slow. But it all sounds so foreign. The nerdy Charlie Korsmo character brags, “I found this little baby on the ‘Net.” Peter Facinelli insults him with “Shouldn’t you be playing on your computer?” Shouldn’t you if you’re even alive ten years later? [+5]
The degree to which this film wants to punish its own characters is problematic.
- Other Technological Notes
A boombox, a beeper, and a laser pointer [+3]. (I’m trademarking that as the title of something right now. Don’t steal it.)
Deep breath:Doc Martens, friendship bracelets, chain wallets, shiny shirts, bare midriff, Tommy Hilfiger, jean jackets, black jeans, baggy jeans. Not to mention hoop earrings on dudes and dress shirts open to t-shirts [+11].
But don’t think I’m not giving a +3 bonus to these goggles.
’90s FILM CONVENTIONS
"The beer has gone bad!" [+1]
"Double-bagging it" [+1]
Slide Transitions [+1]
Referring to any Black Person as “Hootie” [+1]
25-Year-Olds Playing High School Kids [+5]
"Where Are They Now" Coda Stolen from Fast Times at Ridgemont High [+5]
Guy Winning Over the Girl at a Train Station in the Last Scene [+5]
All Popular Teenagers Being Unredeemable Jerks When, Really, Most Popular People Are That Way Because They’re Actually Good People [+10]
Even if some of the storylines are more compelling than others, Can’t Hardly Wait moves fast and is really endearing, despite its cliches.
More importantly, Can’t Hardly Wait scored 111 points, placing it behind only Singles as the most ’90s film of all time.
*- For perspective, “trying to get signed” is probably the worst business angle a 2012 band can take. You can tell just how clueless record companies are by the language of any report that a band “signed” with one. Like, it’s active voice now. The band finally relented and deigned to go into a deal with the corporation. They hold all the power. And, also, in 2012, a record exec might actually be at a high school graduation party. You never know.
*- I love That Thing You Do. One of the most rewatchable movies of the ’90s. Unfortunately, I can never use it in this column because it didn’t take place in present day. There are rules, you know.
*- The love letter thing never works, guys. Trust me. You know what also never works? Writing a girl a sonnet that says you love her when you’ve only ever said two words to her. My “friend” did that once.
*- Whenever I listen to the radio these days—and I don’t think many people still listen to the radio—I’m shocked that people still call in. Sixteen-year-old girl: I keep reading all of these think-pieces about how you secretly run the music business because you have every song ever at your fingertips. Why are you asking Q93 to play Trey Songz on a school day?