To put it mildly, I could hardly wait for Can't Hardly Wait, Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont's graduation present to the senior class of 1998. An all-night party posing as a movie, Can't Hardly Wait wears its influences on its beer-stained sleeve--from American Graffiti to Dazed and Confused, with special nods to John Hughes' The Breakfast Club and Cameron Crowe's Say Anything. So, no points for originality, but Kaplan and Elfont, who also wrote the script, have a nice feel for that seriously ridiculous moment before the wild partying of high school gives way to the wild partying of college. And the very familiarity of the material seems to confirm that, though years may come and years may go, jocks and geeks and prom queens last forever. Ethan Embry, who looks like Matthew McConaughey's kid brother, is Preston Meyers, an aspiring writer who's carried a torch for Jennifer Love Hewitt's Amanda Beckett ever since he first laid eyes on her four years ago. Amanda spent the four years holding court with Peter Facinelli's Mike Dexter--she as prom queen, homecoming queen and cheerleader, he as prom king, jock, stud and all-around asshole. But Preston may finally get his chance. Dexter, practically smelling the college girls just around the corner, has dropped Amanda, an event that has the entire graduating class of Huntington Hills High scrambling for position. And what better place to wage this realignment of the pecking order than at an all-night graduation party in which, if everything goes right, the prom king will lose his crown and the geek shall inherit the earth?
The geekiest geek is Charlie Korsmo's William Lichter, a sci-fi nut and honor roll student who shouldn't even be there but winds up (in this order) drunk as a skunk, the life of the party and in jail. "Should have had the Mogen David," I wanted to shout at the screen. Can't Hardly Wait doesn't tell us anything new about high school students, but it covers the old ground with a light foot, only occasionally tripping over its other foot. Thus does the Class of '98 march into the future.