Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Charlie Korsmo, Lauren Ambrose, Seth Green
Directors:  Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic Transfer, Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  Columbia Tri Star
Features:  See Review
Length:  101 Minutes
Release Date:  November 17, 1998

Film ***

Can't Hardly Wait is a teen comedy that pays much homage to those that came before, like Sixteen Candles or Dazed and Confused.  A lot of films in that genre are hit or miss.  This is a hit.

First off, there is a great ensemble cast at work here—no weak links—and the most famous, Jennifer Love Hewitt, is no more visible than any other star.  The script is mostly good and often downright hilarious.  You will laugh out loud on more than one occasion.  The direction is top notch, creating a somewhat chaotic but technically controlled environment for the kids to interact and "randomly" bounce off one another.  The story mostly takes place at the last party of the year for a group of high school seniors…hardly uncultivated ground, but the directors use the setting and the multiple stories as a means for creating and maintaining a good comic energy level.  For some, it’s just one last chance to cut loose, but for others, everything hangs in the balance.  It’s the kind of night when the meaning to a particular Barry Manilow song can greatly influence the outcome of the evening.

At the heart of the story is the lovestruck teenage boy, and Ethan Embry makes a good protagonist.  There’s something about his enthusiasm, and his unfortunate tendency to hesitate when he should be acting that’s very likable.  The plot is nothing we haven't seen before: nice, quiet kid loves lonely, popular beauty, and this party is his last chance to tell her.  Will he do it?  Will they end up together?  Before the night is over, will they have just missed each other several times?  (Naturally). 

But what is less than enthralling plot-wise is more than made up for by the strength of the acting and the hysterical writing.  My favorite is the band at the party, who never gets to play a single note because the members can't stop arguing with each other!

Other cast members also deserve notice…Seth Green gives one of his funniest performances as Kenny, the hip-hop white kid determined to lose his virginity at the party, and Lauren Ambrose as the no-nonsense girl who ends up sharing most of the evening with him, because…well, you’ll see.

And Jenna Elfman also turns up briefly, personifying the film’s lone voice of adult wisdom and reason.  It’s a little bit ironic that she’s a prostitute dressed in an angel’s costume.

Video ***1/2

No complaints here...as usual, CST delivers a fine, quality anamorphic transfer (full frame also available on side 2).  The many party scenes are bright and colorful, with a fairly wide array of lighting styles and levels, yet images come across cleanly, sharply, and with excellent, natural, well contained colors throughout.  I noticed nothing in the way of compression artifacts save for just a touch of grain here and there in some of the darkest scenes...very slight, and hardly distracting.  Overall, a terrific job.

Audio ***

This is a good 5.1 soundtrack, though maybe not quite as lively as I would have hoped for the big party scenes.  Dialogue is clear throughout, and the .1 channel gets a little kick from the great music, which also gives the picture its sense of dynamic range.  There are moments of ambient effects emanating from the rear stage, but like I said, just not as much discreet use as I would have liked to have seen.

Features ***

The disc contains a commentary track with writers/directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, along with some cast members, a trailer, a photo gallery, and Smash Mouth’s video for “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby”.  The commentary is quite interesting.  If you laughed at this version of the movie, wait until you hear about the one that almost got made!


Can the social events of a single night alter the course of your life forever?  Sometimes, but not usually.  What’s important is remembering that tender age when you’re sure it can, and it will.  Can’t Hardly Wait celebrates that spirit in consistently funny and winning ways, thanks to a good script and an appealing cast.