Don't You Forget About: Can't Hardly Wait

Sure, it's fun to catch the latest flick at the multiplex, or grab the newest release at a video store, but sometimes you just gotta say, "Out with the new, and in with the unknown." There are plenty of older flicks out there that are worth a rental, but never registered on your radar. In Don't You Forget About, we remember the long-gone gems, so you don't have to.

Photo: Movieposter.com

One late June afternoon a little over ten years ago, I fell madly in love with a little teen movie called Can't Hardly Wait. I way too young to even grasp the innuendos and deep, late 90s meanings of the movie but it didn't really matter. The moment I heard Preston and the gang gossiping over epic break-ups and barely-there grad gowns to the tune of Eve 6’s “Open Road Song" during the opening credits, I knew there was no turning back. Just add in my tween-age heroine, J. Love, Seth Green, a band named Loveburger, a perky cameo by a teenage witch, a monologue about strawberry Pop Tarts, a midnight phone call to "The Man-ilow himself" and Dire Straits's epic track "Romeo and Juliet" and you've got my personal equivalent of teen cinema perfection.

Over the years, I've probably watched this movie around 57 times. No joke. To quote Smash Mouth's pop-rock ditty, I just can't get enough of it, baby. I’ll admit, part of the reason I heart it so much is because it reminds me of my pre-teen years. Every time I watch Preston, Amanda, Mike, Special K and the Huntington High crew party like its 98', I float back to the theatre where I saw it many mood rings ago. It was the day after my first concert (Hanson baby!) and the first day of summer. In other words: destined to be legendary.

My personally awesome circumstances (Mmm-hmm-bop!) may have made Can't Hardly Wait particularly special to me, but I don’t think it is the only reason I continue to re-watch it. There are lots of movies from my childhood that fail to resonate at all (sorry, grade 5 b-day party pick, The Bachelor). But no matter how many times I sing along to “Paradise City” with William, laugh at Kenny’s makeshift “Love Kit”, or ponder about the connection between God and salt with a very stoned Nick Andopolis, Can’t Hardly Wait never ever fails to impress me.

Okay, I know. I made a lot of references right there you don't understand. But you can, if you give this movie a chance. But before you rush off to your local Blockbuster or whatever, let me give you a full-out recap of the awesomeness you're about to watch. 

It's Graduation Day 1998. Everyone is hopped up on that almost-adult high that comes with a stinky old cap and gown and a Kinkos-printed diploma. But no one is as excited as sometime t-shirt-wearing pseudo nerd Preston (Ethan Embry). He's just learned that his crush, Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt) has broken off her long-term relationship with school douche, Mike Dexter (Carlisle Cullen, I mean, Peter Facinelli). With a four-year old letter in his pocket and his spiteful BFF Denise (a perfectly pissy Lauren Ambrose) on his arm, he heads out to the class house party, hoping to win Amanda's heart once and for all.
That's the main story, but there's a whole lot else that happens during this one-night tale. Like American Graffiti, Can't Hardly Wait flashes back and forth between a whole bunch of characters as they make their way through their last night of hopeless high school-dom and enter their first day of post-secondary awkwardness.

In addition to Mike, Amanda, Preston and Denise, there's Kenny (Seth Green), the wannabee gangsta with a cherry to pop, William (Charlie Kosmo), the X-phile who just wants revenge, and a whole bunch of familiar faces you could attribute to at least two people from your own high school (the goofy stoners, the over-spirited girl, the TMI-sharing failed class clown...). And look out for some modern stars who make small, but awesome cameos (Jason Segel as a watermelon-obsessed pothead, Jaime Pressley as "Girlfriend #1", Jenna Elfman as a Scott Baio fan/stripper-angel).
Sure the story is pretty simple, and even cliché, but that's kind of the point. High school really is a big cliché, not nearly as important as we think it is. And this version of the hell that is high school is just a hell of a lot of fun, especially if you're a 90s kid. I mean what modern movie has Clueless alums, Breckin Meyer and Donald Faison, playing fake band mates (well, other than the epic-ness that is 2001's Josie and the Pussycats - nobody rocks the mic like DuJour!)? Or name drops Gwyneth and Brad, as a couple?
If I haven’t convinced you already to see this gem of a movie, then I don’t know that I ever will. I know that it isn’t Citizen Kane or anything, but I firmly believe that everyone has their very own CHW. You just have to look for it. When you find yours, you will understand exactly how I feel about this silly movie about the significance of the three of the biggest events in every teenager’s life: graduation, goodbyes and of course, Barry Manilow’s birthday. And if you don't, well I'll have Mike Dexter kick everybody's ass in this room.

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