Plot: What’s it about?
The teen movie has had peaks and valleys like few other genres. From American Graffiti to Fast Times at Ridgemont High to Dazed and Confused, it’s hard to classify which ones are truly great and which were simply great for their time. The late 90’s brought about a resurgence of the teen flick and though it never really died, this was one of many that helped define the “millennial” genre of teen films. Looking at the cast two decades later, it’s easy to pick out those that have had successful careers in the business. And this might be one of the films (like Dazed and Confused) in which the extras ultimately outperformed the leads. But we’ll leave that to speculation. Having never seen the film, I was excited (yes, really) to see one of the teen films that I’d missed and what better opportunity that for the twentieth anniversary!
If ever there’s a formula for a teen movie, it can be found here. We meet the main players in the film in the first few minutes and get the general gist of a plot as well. Preston (Ethan Embry), the doleful protagonist of the film, has pined for Amanda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) for the past four years. She’s been dating the stereotypical jock, Mike (Peter Facinelli) but he dumps her on graduation day. This opens the door for Preston to make his move by giving her a love letter he’s been working on (for the past four years). But, at the last minute, he decides not to follow through, throws it away and – wouldn’t you know it – it ends up in her hands. She’s moved, goes to seek him out but nothing’s ever as easy as it seems. There’s also a series of shenanigans by the supporting players like Kenny (Seth Green), the “gansta” who wants to lose his virginity. I don’t feel the need to explain the rest.
All this isn’t to say that the movie isn’t bad. It isn’t. And maybe if I’d have seen it 20 years ago (in my 20’s) then I’d have a more profound appreciation for it. But I didn’t and I don’t. What I found more interesting was looking at the supporting cast and all the names there. Though not listed in the credits, names like Jerry O’Connell, Jason Segel, Jamie Pressly and even Melissa Joan Hart are worth a double take (or two). Set amongst some more memorable late 90’s teen flicks like American Pie, She’s All That and even the more dramatic (scarier) like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream, this one feels a bit contrived. Still, I’m sure this film holds a special place in some 40-year old hearts out there. Just not mine.
Video: How’s it look?
Having never seen the film before this viewing, I have no antecedent in regard to how this looked. Yes, I might have caught a scene here or there on cable over the years, but by and large Can’t Hardly Wait fell on virgin eyes. That said, the 1.85:1 AVC HD image looks surprisingly good. Overall picture clarity seemed to be smooth and lacking any grain. Colors seemed vibrant, but not overly so. I had to chuckle to myself given some of the rather dated outfits worn by the characters in the film. Contrast seems relatively strong as well. It’s a good-looking picture, but I’m willing to bet that it’s the same one that Sony used for their tenth anniversary disc.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The teen comedy genre isn’t one that’ll test the limits of your system, but the film does have a fairly decent soundtrack. There are a few songs by Smashmouth (remember him?) that drive some of the party scenes. Vocals are pure and crisp and surrounds are used frequently but also seemingly sparingly if that makes any sense. The front stage handles the lion’s share of the mix, giving it a nice, well-balanced feel with just the right amount of “oomph” in key scenes.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio commentary (Original) – This first track accompanied the disc on its initial release (well, I have to assume) and features co-writers/directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont as well as actor Seth Green. It’s a pretty decent track with some chuckles here and there as well as some anecdotes from the film, the shoot and so on.
- Audio Commentary (Filmmakers and Cast 10 years Later) – I like this. It’s always nice to hear thoughts on a film later on and this time we’ve got more of the cast in on the fun. Kaplan and Elfont are joined by Peter Facinelli, Donald Faison, Seth Green, Joel Michaely and while not all were major headliners in the film, the additional voices are a welcome addition.
- Huntington Hills Class of ’98 Reunion – This 25 minute segment features most of the cast and crew as they reminisce about how they got the part, some memories from the shoot and so forth.
- Can’t Hardly Wait – The Making of a Teen Classic – Again, Kaplan and Elfont recount how they came up with the film and their particular insight into it as well as what they wanted to accomplish on their first directorial adventure.
- Life of the Party – If you want to hear the cast tell some of their high school stories, this is the place for you. I have to think that some of this was improvised, though?
- Deleted Scenes – Six total, though two are extended and two are alternate. So maybe only two real deleted scenes?
- Pop Tarts?
- Extended Dendrophilia
- Alternate Trip McNeely
- Alternate Jail Scene
- Extended Party Bust
- This Party Sucked
- Music Video – “I Can’t Get Enough of You, Baby”
The Bottom Line
Can’t Hardly Wait is heralded by some and loathed by others. On my first viewing, I didn’t think it was mind-blowing, but then again I might not think that of some of my other favorite films had I not seen them when they first came out. I personally think it pales in comparison to some of the John Hughes films of the 80’s and I enjoyed 1999’s American Pie much more. Still, there’s a plethora of talent (which, at the time, went unnoticed) in the film and there are worse ways to spend 100 minutes. This disc seems to be a carbon copy (minus a few features) from Sony’s 2008 Blu-ray. Personally, I’d pick that one up.