Can’t Hardly Wait - *

Remember the glut of mid-80s teen angst films? Well, apparently every generation needs its own, and Can’t Hardly Wait has picked up the gauntlet. Unfortunately, beyond broad stereotypes and patently obvious social observations, Can’t Hardly Wait has very little to offer.

It’s the night after graduation, and the entire senior class of Huntington High has gathered together for one final party. Although all the usual archetypes are present, the film focuses primarily on six teens: the most popular guy and girl in school, Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli) and Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt), who have recently broken up. Ordinary Preston Meyers (Ethan Embry), who spends his time pining for the beautiful Amanda. Uber-nerd William Lichter (Charlie Korsmo), who spends his time pining for revenge against bully Mike. Antisocial Denise Fleming (Lauren Ambrose), dragged to the party by her friend Preston. And then there’s Kenny Fisher (Seth Green), a white kid who wants to be black, and who’s come to the party to score.

The film’s setup is tedious at best, and much too lengthy. I mean, the characters are all merely caricatures, and the prolonged introduction only serves to point out their shallowness.

The closest the film comes to an interesting character is Preston Meyers, whose appeal is due more to the talents of Ethan Embry than strong writing. As a character, he is completely defined by his attraction to Amanda. But Embry’s engaging mannerisms make the character more endearing than he was written.

As the object of his affection, Jennifer Love Hewitt takes a flat role and leaves it lifeless. Korsmo and Facinelli play their stereotypes to the hilt, but without any interesting touches. Lauren Ambrose wanders through the film looking for a personality, and Seth Green, looking like Bulworth Jr., is never quite as funny as he tries to be. He’s actually better in his quieter moments. The few sparks from the supporting cast are actually delivered in cameos (by Jenna Elfman and Jerry O’Connell).

The humor in the film is scarce, though it does get slightly better as the film rolls along. The script (by directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont) offers few surprises (beyond the fact that they can still build an entire film out of these hoary old clichés).

Teens might get a kick out of the film’s obvious humor, but this entry is far from being a credit to the genre. Recently, Clueless and even the Scream series have had more insight into teen culture. Don’t believe the title…you can wait for this one…a long, long time.

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