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Can't Hardly Wait

Sony Pictures // PG-13 // September 30, 2008 // Region 0
List Price: $28.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted September 21, 2008 | E-mail the Author
"Can't Hardly Wait is the best movie ever!"
-- The subliminal Moviefone guy, Josie and the Pussycats

So...! High school is
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now kind of a fuzzy blur in the rear view mirror, and pretty much everyone from the graduating class at Huntington Hills High is piling together for one last big blow out before heading off to college. It's not so much Denise's (Lauren Ambrose) scene, but she tags along with her kinda geeky pal Preston (Ethan Embry) anyway for...moral support, I guess? See, Preston's been fawning over Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt) since she first strolled into Huntington Hills four long years ago, and ever since, he's been carrying around a letter telling her just how he feels. Tonight's the night he's finally gonna fork that letter over. I mean, "Mandy"'s blaring on the radio, she's back on the market after being dumped by B.M.O.C. jock Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli)'s fate! Destiny!

While Preston's fawning over the jigglier half of Huntington High's power couple, dweeby William (Charlie Korsmo) has his eyes set on Mike Dexter. No, no, not like that: it's just that Willy's been tormented by that prick for years (I say again, not like that), and he exacts his revenge tonight. It's just...William's gotta drink while he's at the party -- he doesn't want to tip anyone off about his cacklingly nefarious scheme, after all -- and a few swigs of Miller High Life later, he's kinda forgotten why he's there in the first place.

Oh, and then there's Kenny (Seth Green)...y'know, Special K, who's kind of, proto-Kevin Federline. He's down with the WPCBCN, ifyouknowwhattimean. K's just there to get laid, yo, and he has a bag full of scented candles, sticky lotions, two or three feet of Trojans, and even a pocket Kama Sutra, all aimed at bringing one very lucky lady to the frenzied peak of her sexual I-don't-know-what. He's struts in with a list of ten lovely candidates, but...yeah, the night's not going so well. Kenny does bump into a foxy chick without all that much in the way of standards, and when he darts off to the bathroom to get ready...oops. Locked inside with his cynical, eye-rolling, one-time bestest friend ever Denise.

Yeah, yeah, those are the bigger subplots, but Can't Hardly Wait is the sorta movie that hypercaffeinatedly flits from one story to the next, bounding across dozens and dozens of characters and tons of running gags. If you're not so much into whatever's on-screen at the moment, you'll be staring at something completely different eight seconds later. There are a few scattered stabs at...y'know, introspection, but this isn't The Breakfast Club. Can't Hardly Wait's
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just there to have a good time, and...well, it does. This is the flick that kinda kicked off the teen movie revival at the tail end of the '90s, and it still packs the same kind of charm and delirious sense of fun of the teen flicks that writers/directors Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan grew up watching in the '80s. I mean, that's the review. It's cute. It's still a heckuva lot of fun even now that the movie is ringing in its...yikes! tenth anniversary. Can't Hardly Wait doesn't set out to redefine the language of cinema; it seems kind of like a couple of young writers fresh out of film school grew up with a bunch of John Hughes flicks and wanted to make their own, so...yeah. They did. A little clichéd...? Kinda corny...? Sure, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

One drag is that Can't Hardly Wait isn't exactly the movie that Elfont and Kaplan wrote. Every single reference to drugs has been snipped out, so...yeah, those aren't pot brownies anymore...'sjust Duncan Hines. Spaced-out LSD Girl just has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it part staring at a banana. A beer funnel had to be digitally scrubbed out to score a PG-13 rating. The original cut had a sobbing, incoherent drunk girl who's the only person at the party who knows exactly what's going on, and if anyone could...y'know, understand her (or read her subtitles!), the night might've careened off in an entirely different direction. There's no recognizable trace of her anywhere in the movie now, and for a flick that's sopping with alcohol, there's really not any drinking at all. Even though this is the tenth anniversary edition of a kinda popular movie, Sony opted against restoring that original cut of Can't Hardly Wait on this Blu-ray disc.

'Course, the really great thing about Can't Hardly Wait is the cast. Sure, Jennifer Love Hewitt was already a name by then, but a metric ton of the actors in this movie -- even though most of 'em only have a line or two -- went on to be really recognizable faces. Yeah, yeah, there's Ethan Embry, Peter Facinelli, Seth Green, Lauren Ambrose...I already rattled their names off, but also popping up throughout the movie are Erik Palladino (ER), Sean Patrick Thomas (Save the Last Dance), Freddy Rodríguez (Grindhouse), Donald Faison (Scrubs), Jaime Pressly (My Name Is Earl), Chris Owen (American Pie), Eric Balfour (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Clea DuVall (Heroes), Selma Blair (Hellboy), Amber Benson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Sarah Rue (Less Than Perfect), Jenna Elfman (Dharma and Greg), Jerry O'Connell (Las Vegas), Breckin Meyer (Road Trip)...the list keeps going, but that's what the IMDb is for. The names might not look familiar, but I promise: there's a "hey, I know [gender neutral pronoun]!" every twenty seconds. Pinky swear.

So, yeah: kinda witty, goofy, spastic, sweet...Can't Hardly Wait is still a lot of fun ten years later, and it's one of my favorites from that wave of teen movies, and I'll even slap on a bold, italicized Recommended.

Video: Can't Hardly Wait isn't a knockout in high-def, but it's pretty much what I'd stroll in expecting for an under-the-radar teen flick ringing in its tenth anniversary. Crispness and clarity can vary kind of dramatically from one shot to the next; some stretches look like they could've been shot last Thursday, while others
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are a good bit softer and almost fuzzy around the edges. Directors Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan joke a few times in one of their audio commentaries about how the camera keeps falling out of focus, so...yeah, there's that too. The AVC encode doesn't buckle under the weight of the movie's fairly heavy film grain, and it's nice to see that grainy texture hasn't been smeared away through clunky noise reduction or anything. The candy-colored palette pops in high-def, black levels look pretty punchy, and even if definition and detail are kinda uneven, they're definitely a hefty step up over the original DVD.

Audio: Can't Hardly Wait sports a 16-bit Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, and even though this isn't a movie with...y'know, semi-automatic shootouts or megaton explosions or anything, the lossless audio still sounds pretty solid. Eightysomething minutes straight are spent at the party, keeping the surround channels buzzing with random bits of crowd noise. The rears don't really draw attention to themselves all that much, but there are a few nice discrete effects, particularly with stray lines of dialogue being belted out. The highlight of the mix is the soundtrack that's blaring at the party...a time capsule with "1998" stamped somewhere on the side: 311, Smashmouth, Third Eye Blind, Eve 6, Soul Coughing, Matthew Sweet, Dog's Eye View, Sublime, Deee-Lite, and a long, long list of other bands, even tossing in more established acts like The 'Mats, Barry Manilow, Foreigner, and Parliament just for the heck of it. The music packs a pretty decent wallop, spreading its legs into the surround channels and backed by a solid low-frequency kick. Can't Hardly Wait's dialogue comes through cleanly and clearly too. Nah, this isn't a disc you'll grab off the shelf to show off your home theater rig, but I don't have any complaints.

This Blu-ray disc also piles on TrueHD 5.1 tracks in French and Portuguese along with a Dolby Digital Thai dub. The laundry list of subtitles includes streams in English (traditional and SDH), French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Indonesian, and Korean.

Extras: Sony put together a big stack of extras for this tenth anniversary edition, and all three of the new featurettes -- around 50 minutes of footage in all -- are in shiny, shiny high definition.

The meatiest of the new featurettes is "Huntington Hills High Class of '98 Reunion" (27 min.), a set of interviews with writers-slash-directors Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, casting director Mary Vernieu, and actors...let's see if I can rattle 'em all off in one breath...Ethan Embry, Peter Facinelli, Seth Green, Michelle Brookhurst, Freddy Rodriguez, Joel Michaely, Donald Faison, Tamala Jones, Jennifer Lyons, Victor Togunde, and...whew!, Nicole Bilderback. Considering how many
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of the actors in the movie -- even the ones lurking in the background who only spout off a line or two -- have made it big over the past ten years, it kinda follows that casting notes dominate this featurette. Some of the highlights include Rodriguez and Facinelli laughing about playing high schoolers by day and then heading home to their wives and kids, the character of William being recast by a big brain from MIT who's now part of some Pentagon missile defense project, half the cast fawning over Jennifer Love Hewitt and her huge tracts of land, and Embry shouting that no, he really doesn't have any flavor of herpes. The cast also runs through where they think their characters would be ten years later in a "where are they now..." bit.

Most of that same group pops up again in "Can't Hardly Wait: The Making of a Teen Classic" (14 min.). It's not the standard issue making-of piece the title kinda makes it out to be, though. Nope, it's pretty much fourteen minutes straight of the cast and crew rattling off stories from the shoot. Some of the topics tackled here include what drove Kaplan and Elfont to write the movie in the first place, the ridiculously fun and loosely improvisational tone on the set, still being recognized for being in Can't Hardly Wait a full ten years later, and how they were mulling over actually having Barry Manilow and Molly Ringwald in the flick at one point.

The last of the retrospective featurettes is "The Life of the Party" (9 min.), which opens by spelling out the appeal of teen movies before settling into stories about their own graduation parties and what makes the difference between a hell of a blowout and a bland, boring get-together. It's...yeah, kinda lightweight and the tamest of the three featurettes, and most of the cast 'fess up that they're old now and not so much the partying type anyway.

A few of the actors who turn up in these retrospectives -- Peter Facinelli, Donald Faison, Seth Green, and Joel Michaely -- pile into the recording booth with Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont for a reunion audio commentary. It's kind of a hypercaffeinated blast as the six of 'em joke about what Preston wrote in his ::sniffles!:: love letter, riff on New Kids on the Block liner notes, laugh about nixing a Vanilla Ice-ish dye job, and rant about, um, "Lois Lane smokin' black cigarettes". A lot of the commentary is kind of a "look! It's [     fill in the blank     ]", chatting about the gaggle of actors in bit parts who've gone onto bigger and better things, and they spend a decent amount of time early on running through some of the folks who tested for the movie but didn't manage to sneak in, such as James Marsden, Alicia Witt, and Shiri Appleby. If you give this commentary a spin, at least wait until they finish plowing through the song credits since some of the track's biggest laughs are saved for the very, very end.

This Blu-ray disc also carries over the commentary from the original DVD. This other track includes producers Jenno Topling and Betty Thomas, writers/directors Elfont and Kaplan, and...sticking with a British accent just for the hell of it for the first 12 minutes of the commentary, Seth Green. This older commentary doesn't have the same manic energy as the reunion recorded a few months back, but it's still a lot of fun. There's a lot of chatter about what the MPAA made them snip out to land a PG-13, even snickering at a beer bong that was digitally replaced by a goofy looking red balloon. They also talk about how JLH's character was renamed to give 'em an excuse to play "Mandy", a Pop Tart tumbling off a desk making for the most technically complex shot of the movie, how Lauren Ambrose compared herself to a tampon, and the cast taking a cue from a making-of piece on The Rainmaker and screaming vicious obscenities at each other for every scene where someone's supposed to cry or look uncomfortable. There's really not all that much overlap between the two commentaries, and I'd bet fans'll find both of 'em worth a listen.

Another extra that runs
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throughout the movie is "Special K's 411 Track, Yo". Yup, it's a subtitle trivia track, lobbing out a bunch of notes about the cast, random facts like Polaroid bowing out of the instant film biz and how many beers an average guy would have to guzzle in an hour to be legally drunk, and cringingly bad quips about what's happening on-screen...stuff like "Crazy, party for one, your table is ready." It might be worth letting this track run while giving one of the commentaries a spin, but it's not clever enough (and really doesn't kick in all that often) for me to wanna sit through this trivia track on its own.

Seven minutes' worth of deleted scenes have been dusted off from a battered old workprint, and considering all of the footage that had to be gutted out of the flick to score a PG-13, there's really not all that much here. A lot of it's just alternate or additional dialogue from scenes that are already in the movie. There's a lot more footage once the cops bust the party up -- including...hey, Subtitled Crying Drunk Girl, who was almost completely yanked out of the final cut -- and the camera follows Special K and Denise as they get booted from the house. Blah. 'Snothing really all that great, and there should've been a lot more here. This footage is presented in standard definition and letterboxed in non-anamorphic widescreen.

Other extras include a ree-diculously easy '90s trivia game and a video for Smashmouth's "I Can't Get Enough of You Baby" with a big chunk of the flick's cast.

Conclusion: Can't Hardly Wait ranks up there with 10 Things I Hate About You as my favorite of that wave of teen flicks from ten long years ago, and it's still a lot of fun a full decade later. While it's a drag that Sony wouldn't pony up to piece the original cut of the movie back together, and even the deleted scenes barely touch on what was gutted out to score a PG-13 rating, the spiffed-up presentation and new high-def extras make this Blu-ray disc worth picking up for fans of the flick. Recommended.
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