The Pantheon: Can't Hardly Wait

What separates a movie that I simply like from a movie special enough to deserve inclusion in The Pantheon? There are a bunch of criteria, but one of the big ones that can bump a movie into hallowed status is that it's a perfect representation of a particular genre. You'd think a topic like high-school-kids-throw-a-party wouldn't be broad enough to be considered a genre, but there are more than enough entries to consider.

John Hughes naturally ruled the classic era, with iconic party scenes in Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, and so on. I loved those movies, but was too young to really relate to the characters. Parties with peers that didn't include parental supervision and birthday cake were still a long way off. Once I became an actual teenager, though, high school party movies took on a new dimension. The '90s marked the beginning of the hyper-precocious teen character, which got overused in a hurry. The idea of how teens act needed skewering, and thankfully, along came 1998's Can't Hardly Wait.

It's tough to recommend this movie to people, not because it isn't great, but because people stop listening when you tell them the "main" character is played by Jennifer Love Hewitt. I know, I know. But hear me out. Yes, Hewitt's Amanda Beckett is an idealized version of the popular girl (mercilessly and hilariously mocked later in Not Another Teen Movie), but she detracts very little from the fun of this movie. The sensitive writer (Ethan Embry) pursues her. The wannabe (Seth Green) pursues sex. The nerd (Charlie Korsmo) pursues revenge. Most of the other party guests are just pursuing a drunken stupor.

EVERYONE is in this movie. Ready to hear who puts in at least an appearance? Lauren Ambrose. Sara Rue. Jason Segel. Selma Blair. Clea DuVall. Donald Faison. Breckin Meyer. Freddy Rodriguez. Eric Balfour. Amber Benson. Jennifer Elise Cox. Jenna Elfman. Melissa Joan Hart. Jerry O'Connell. Leslie Grossman. Jaime Pressly. Peter Facinelli. Sean Patrick Thomas. You really need to have this movie in your back pocket when you're playing connect-the-actor.

Is it a deep, touching sociological portrait of teenage life in the '90s? Hell, no. But Can't Hardly Wait is hilarious, and easily one of the most insanely quotable movies I've ever seen. You know you've got a friend for life if you meet someone who knows what you're talking about when you describe someone as "Kind of tall. And wears T-shirts. Sometimes."


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