The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’

This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Can’t Hardly Wait.”

The info:

The Movie: “Can’t Hardly Wait” (1998)

Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Seth Green

Director: Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A multicharacter teenage comedy about high-school graduates with different agendas of life on graduation night.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 40 percent

Our take:

Brown: Over the last two weeks, we’ve needed to cleanse our souls of “SLC Punk 2” with movies like “Cape Fear” and “Escape From L.A.” I figured this week, we should see if the teenage set could redeem itself with a late-90’s comedy romp in “Can’t Hardly Wait.”

It’s a setting that so many moviegoers are used to, with a bunch of rambunctious kids in the twilight of high school that drink excessively and are way deeper than any 17-year-old ever could be.

But, instead of having a coming-of-age movie contain a party scene, this whole movie is a 101-minute party scene. And with this coming out in 1998, I wanted a movie that would have been in Froemming’s high-school days (I was 11 when this came out), just so he could be annoyed by what Hollywood thought of his age group.

Plus, this movie was named after a song by The Replacements, so I’m sure it killed your soul, Froemming. Am I right? The sadist in me hopes I’m right.

Froemming: This movie was…just terrible. I actually got depressed watching it because of how bad it was — and felt bad for everyone who was in this dumpster fire of a film. Like you said, it is just one giant party, filled with people who are simply obnoxious. For a film that was targeted at my age group at the time, it failed horribly at resembling anything of what my high school experience was like. Also, here is a tip for Hollywood: NOT ALL HIGH SCHOOL KIDS HAIL FROM WEALTHY SUBURBIA.

Brown: I will say that, yes, not every high school party takes place at a rich WASP’s home, it’s comforting that in Hollywood, parents were as absent as they were in 80’s teen movies.

Now, right away you know this movie does not get how teenagers actually are when they have voiceovers about how the popular couple, Mike and Amanda, broke up while they are in the midst of their graduation ceremony. I remember graduation being kind of somber thinking you’d never see these people again, and a relief because you’d never see these people again.

But because growing up can wait until tomorrow, there’s one last high school party to go to. So enter our love-sick protagonist, Preston.

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Froemming: Preston (Embry) is a creepy stalker who reads way into random events as signs of fate. He has had a crush on Amanda (Hewitt) since freshman year, and man does he come off as an unbalanced kid.

Brown: Since he was a freshman, Preston thinks he and Amanda were meant to be because they sat next to each other in class and had the same kind of Pop Tart for breakfast: Frosted strawberry. What are the odds, right?! Well, if my research is true, the odds were pretty good. Two billion (with a B) Pop Tarts are eaten annually, and frosted strawberry is the top seller.

But, what can you expect out of Preston? Out of all the Ivy League schools, he’s going to Dartmouth, which endorses Keggy the Keg as its unofficial school mascot.

Froemming: But you know he is deep, man, because his class quote was from Thoreau. Amanda’s was a quote by Jewel. The singer. Did I say I hated this movie yet? At least Mike the jock proved his dickishness by quoting Al Davis.

And we see Preston babble on like a sad puppy about his love for Amanda to his childhood friend Denise, who you know is an outsider because she is moody and sports black fingernail polish. She is played by Lauren Ambrose, and was one of two cast members I saw from “Six Feet Under” in this film (the other was Freddy Rodriguez, who played T.J., Jock #3) .

Brown: I’m glad you touched on this a little bit: This movie just makes you shake your head on how you are supposed to characterize the cast. Preston and Denise are unique high school spirits because they quote Thoreau and Oscar Wilde, respectively. Not to mention at the end that Preston is going to college early to go to a workshop with Kurt Vonnegut. It’s such lazy writing.

But hey, why focus on the potential stalker/murder suspect Preston and his forgotten friend Denise when there’s subplots to launch at you?

The next part, we see the class valedictorian, William, plot his revenge against Mike, his bully. This has been a lifelong thing to the point that William has a pair of jeans that have a pudding stain on the back (poop jokes…) that he has never washed. You’re the smartest kid in class but you never thought to buy some Tide? Also, your plot for revenge is to take compromising photos of Mike so he looks like a homosexual. Oh Hollywood, please stop being homophobic.

We’ll touch on this more, but this is my ultimate problem with this movie: Instead of having one plot line that was coherent and quality, “Can’t Hardly Wait” has like six different plot lines going all at once. And they’re all unbearable.

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Froemming: Yup, and if you think this film at least tries to make it easy to remember all these plots, you’d be wrong. I was also taken aback by how much baggage and drama these kids hold on to over the years. They argue with one another over events that took place in second grade.

There is also Kenny Fisher (Seth Green) who is the walking embodiment of the Offspring song “Pretty Fly For A White Guy,” and man….I get he is supposed to be the comic relief here, but all I was hoping for was a tree fall on him early on.

But, there is one sub plot that I actually did enjoy. I enjoyed it greatly because of how random it was, how weird it was and how I actually related to it somewhat.

What plot am I talking about? The band at the party. My friends and I tried to start bands during our younger years, and it always ended like it does in this movie: Us fighting, breaking up, reuniting only to break up again — without even playing one song.

Brown: … Are you serious? I had it in my notes that the band (Loveburger) plot line was the most useless of all of them. This movie has three Smash Mouth songs in it and I’d rather listen to more of that than have more Loveburger drama.

Froemming: I’m going to ignore your apparent love of Smash Mouth here and say it was the only aspect that hit any resemblance of reality to me. I have been there, and I have seen that happen. They are also the only likeable characters in this whole film, which is made up of unbearable idiots. I’d rather have watched 91-minutes of them on stage arguing over a cowboy hat than two nerds getting abducted by a UFO (yes, this happens at the end of the film).

Brown: We’re going to jump around a lot here because, let’s be honest, this plot doesn’t make sense regardless of order.

I need to mention this as well: Amanda’s lamenting over how people define her. Through a good chunk of the start, all that’s brought up is how she hates her high school existence being defined by her relationship with Mike. Umm, you had four years to differentiate yourself and be something more than arm candy for the school quarterback. I can only empathize with you for so long as you stand there, mouth agape, and look down at every person who even glances at you.

The only likable person in this movie is Denise. She says the one line that I wish I could tell Preston: Move ahead. Because Preston has to fawn over a high school crush on the last day of high school! Also, she hates house parties as much as I do.

Froemming: But Preston has written (and re-written) a love letter to Amanda over the four years he creepily gazed upon her from the bushes like the unsettling pervert he is. And he wants to finally tell this unsuspecting person that he has obsessed over her for years. This film tries to make this concept seem romantic, but I felt like the law should be called on Preston.

But hey, we also have Mike’s story, too. See, Mike thinks college is going to be a 24-hour orgy of decadence. So he dumps Amanda, and wants his football buddies to dump their girlfriends, because he is extremely codependent of them? I don’t know. It sure seems so. Also, these people are terrible. Have I said I hated this movie yet?

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Brown: Before we get to Preston and his encounter with an angel and his obsession with Barry Manilow, we should touch base on the Kenny subplot. He’s basically the horny teen archetype we have in every movie, except he’s modern, with a jumpsuit and goggles. Oh, and he tries to act black. How ladies aren’t tripping all over themselves is beyond me.

I will say that Kenny is way into losing his virginity, bringing a bag with a scented candle, condoms and the Kama Sutra. As a misguided youth, I would have done something like that.

And, because he needs to get his hopes up, he gets the in-no-way-realistic-offer of “I’ll sleep with the first guy who talks to me” from a hot girl at the party. Only he gets locked in a bathroom… Yep.

Froemming: But Kenny does have company, because it was Denise who stormed into the bathroom as he was using a blowdryer on his crotch (don’t get me started on this chain of events) to get brownie frosting out of her hair, and instead of doing what a normal person would do, you know, run as far away from this horror show as fast as one could, she slams herself into the bathroom with Kenny, and she breaks the doorknob off.

Because of course she did. *Sigh*

Brown: Kenny and Denise’s backstory would have been at least interesting, but because this film tries to cram in so much (REDACTED), there’s no time to really delve into it. Brief cliffnotes: They used to be friends and even had a brief relationship. Then, Kenny tried (and failed) to be a ladies man and Denise was “too weird” for him.

So, when they start getting along, kiss, then sleep with each other, you’re not fully invested it in because you had to deal with garbage like Loveb?rger, William all of a sudden becoming popular because he sings some Guns n’ Roses and Melissa Joan Hart (of all people) trying to get everyone to sign her yearbook.

The only two plots that mattered here: Preston and Amanda (I guess) and Kenny and Denise. That’s it.

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Froemming: Loveb?rger was the only plot I cared about.

And yes, William suddenly becomes popular because he got drunk and makes an ass out of himself. And the whole time he is having fun, his two buddies who, again get kidnapped BY A UFO! are hanging out on the roof of the pool house waiting to unleash William’s nefarious, homophobic plans upon Mike.

Brown: You know it was a wild night for William because the camera WILL NOT STOP SPINNING. Do not watch if you have a weak stomach.

Froemming: I’d advise to not watch it in general. Have I said I hated this movie yet?

Brown: A couple times.

Amanda finds Preston’s letter after said letter goes through its own Rube Goldberg machine and ends up in a bowl of pretzels in front of Amanda. First off, gross. Second, that letter is pristine when she gets it. People were stepping on it and it was once in a garbage can. She should get shots after opening it.

All the while, Preston is lamenting that he and Amanda won’t happen while in his car listening to Barry Manilow’s “Mandy.” He thinks it’s a sign. I say it’s an inferior Manilow song compared to “Copacabana” (which I know all the words to).

While trying to call the radio station to get word from Barry himself if the song was about a woman or his dog, Preston’s phone call is interrupted by an angel… or a stripper dressed as an angel. We are going real literal with our archetypes here. She’s a stripper with a heart of gold… we should make her an angel, too, because our audience is a bunch of idiot teens!

Froemming: The stripper angel is an uncredited role for Jenna Elfman, because she probably (wisely) didn’t want he name associated with this film.

But I did get a legitimate chuckle during this scene. After Preston throws a fit because other people have real problems, like the stripper’s car breaking down, and his call gets cut off, the stripper tells him about the time she she met the love of her life — Scott Baio at a mall (she truly reached for the stars here, and perhaps flew too close to the sun). But things just didn’t work out because she didn’t try hard enough to get Chachi’s attention. The moral of her story: Preston should try harder to get in touch with the love of his life, Barry Manilow.

Brown: What angel stripper doesn’t yearn for Scott Baio, famed speaker of the Republican National Convention?

While Preston comes back to the party (at 2 a.m., mind you. Why haven’t the cops broken this party up yet?) to find Amanda and cut off her skin and wear it as a suit profess his love to her, Amanda has been trying to find who Preston is but no one can give a tangible answer. The whole time, I was yelling at my TV, “MELISSA JOAN HART HAS A YEARBOOK! GO TO HER, YOU VOID-OF-PERSONALITY DOPE!”

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Froemming: It was the one time Clarissa could truly have explained it all.

But before we get to the greatest part of this film, we have to rewind a bit. See, Mike is having a terrible time at the party because his dickishness over the four years of high school is finally coming back to haunt him. After a sobering realization from Trip McNeely (Jerry O’Connell) about how college isn’t the Sodom and Gomorrah he believed it to be (girls are different in college because they find him abhorrent, as they should), Mike wants Amanda back.

And Amanda, to her credit, is having none of it. In fact, she publicly humiliates him in front of everyone, which would have been a pretty strong scene if the filmmaker didn’t cap it off by having someone call Mike a “fag” and having the room explode in laughter.

Brown: Well, in a comedy, why have a poignant moment if you can just go for the low-hanging fruit in an attempt at a laugh?

Froemming: Ugh. Anyway, after this scene, every guy at the party is hitting on Amanda. And she gets really annoyed by it (as she should). But when Preston shows up and professes his love for her, she explodes into a fiery rage upon him, as she should.

But she didn’t know this was the Preston she was looking for. She thought he was some drunk goon.

Which brings me to why I thought the movie should have ended here. She says to Preston what I was thinking the whole time: Just because you pined over someone for years and express it at the very last moment doesn’t mean you deserve to be with them. Everything she says to Preston here is true, and it would have made for a beautiful ending.

But the movie doesn’t end here. And I hate it much more because of that.

Brown: Yep, because she FINALLY goes to MJH for the yearbook and realizes she just dropped a verbal pipebomb on the guy she was searching for. And the girl who wanted to prove she was more than just a relationship desperately seeks out Preston so she can once again be defined by a relationship. I don’t know, Froemming. I don’t feel like this movie is sending out the right messages.

Froemming: If she would have meant what she said to Preston (like she should have), that would have at least put her on the right track toward independence and finding out who she truly is. But, alas, here we are. This movie gets so many things wrong, it is truly mind blowing.

But hey, it wouldn’t be a 90s house party if the police didn’t show up as Blink-182’s “Dammit” plays in the background!

Brown: The next morning, several key members of the party are at a diner, somehow not hungover because the teenagers in this town have the alcohol tolerance of Andre the Giant. The main one to take away there is Preston saying goodbye to Denise (when saying goodbye to high school classmates actually meant something before Facebook). He has a train to catch to get to Dartmouth. It’s good to know Preston’s parents will spend all this money for an Ivy League education but can’t see their son off to college and help him move into his dorm.

Froemming: If I were his parents, I would hate him too.

Brown: Preston probably found out his parents didn’t love him when they had Toaster Strudel instead of Pop Tarts.

And again, this movie has an out if it wanted a memorable ending where Preston and Amanda meet right before he’s about to leave. It’s a moment of “Oh no, I wish we had more time. Well, best of luck to you,” so it could, like you mentioned, have that ending where you’re not guaranteed anything just because you want it. But no, he’ll catch a train later and they get to have a kiss. And, the rest of the cast gets the still shot treatment.

Froemming: From Wikipedia:

  • Seven hours later, Preston got on a train to Boston. Amanda wrote him a letter for every day that he was away. They are still together.
  • The day after the party, Denise and Kenny meet up in a diner; five minutes later, Denise dumped Kenny. Ten minutes later, they found a bathroom and got back together.
  • Mike went to college but, after drinking too much, lost his football scholarship. He ended up forty pounds overweight and working at the car wash, a job he lost when incriminating Polaroids surfaced.
  • William became one of the most popular students at Harvard. He formed his own computer company that has made him worth millions, and he is dating a supermodel.
  • William’s two nerdy friends were abducted by aliens after discussing that they did not miss anything by not attending the party.

Brown: Don’t forget this:

  • Bluto became a state senator.

Froemming: And then the moment I dreaded the whole time I was watching: They play the Replacements song “Can’t Hardly Wait” during the end credits.

(REDACTED) you, movie “Can’t Hardly Wait.”

Brown: Well then… I got a frosted strawberry Pop Tart waiting for me, so we should get to our recommendations.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

Brown: There’s nothing worth seeing in this movie. This is 90’s schlock, and not the good kind like “Escape From L.A.” Pass.

Froemming: Nope. Not at all. This movie was garbage and the only thing I cared about was the fate of Loveburger, which this movie did not give me a resolution to.

Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: