Courtesy Photo
96 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, June 12, 1998
Written & directed by Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont

Starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Charlie Korsmo, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Facinelli, Seth Green & Melissa Joan Hart

Cameo: Jenna Elfman

Paint-by-numbers graduation flick has zero personality

All uncreative teeny-bopper movies have the same cast of characters, mostly automaton clones from the reign of John Hughes ("Sixteen Candles," et al.).

There's the arrogant jock and his entourage, the "Star Wars" fixated nerds, the punker, the stoner, the white kid who thinks he's black, the severely English-impared exchange student, the hippie, the goodie-two-shoes girl in a taffeta dress, the intimidating but sweet young hottie in a WonderBra, her gaggle of bimbettes, the cynical weird girl and the shy, aw-shucks nice guy.

Did I leave anybody out?

All high school party movies have a novice band, beer and barf gags, sexual harrassment, a studly braggard, a crying girl, a nerd getting lucky with a drunk babe and property damage.

Most teenage romance movies end with the aformentioned shy, aw-shucks guy winning the heart of the most beautiful girl in school by methods that us guys out here in the real world know would never work in a million years.

Add to this the knowledge that Jennifer Love Hewitt ("Party of Five") and Ethan Embry ("That Thing You Do!") star as the hottie and the aw-shucks guy, and you don't need to bother seeing "Can't Hardly Wait."

Written and directed by the novice team of Deborah Kalpan and Harry Elfont, "Can't Hardly Wait" mines every teen cliche in Hollywood history for this flat and plotless script about a graduation party at which all the usual suspects show up and say their lines. And that's about as deep as it gets.

There are three thin stories here -- Embry's unrequited crush, a nerd seeking vengence against a mean jock, and the sexual coupling of the film's male and female oddballs (neither of whom are all that odd) -- but the picture seems to be motivated largely by its 48-song soundtrack rather than by anything the characters think or feel.

Although it opens with slight promise -- each character is introduced in freeze-frames showing their yearbook biographies like they were in a Road Runner cartoon -- "Can't Hardly Wait" stuggles throughout with gimmicky plot advancement.

Example: The party is Emrby's last chance to hit on Hewitt, the girl he's loved from afar since his freshman year, because he is leaving town the next day. Where and why is never addressed because his departure is nothing more than a plot device.

Such simplistic contrivances take the place of character depth, and as such each actor has been assigned a single, shallow personality trait. For instance, Jennifer Love Hewitt has big tits.

Only one actress, cherubic redheaded Lauren Ambrose ("In and Out"), emerges from this movie with any kind of dignity. Playing the cynical, anti-social, weird girl gives her the opportunity to mouth off, automatically making her the most interesting character in the film.

With this kind of wholly forgetable picture getting the green light at Columbia Pictures, it's no wonder the studio has been in the red.

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