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Can't Hardly Wait

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The success of lighthearted teen horror movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer has, of course, had major repercussions on subsequent releases. Not only have those films helped ignite the movie careers of young TV stars like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Neve Campbell, and Jennifer Love Hewitt, but they have resurrected the long-dormant teen-comedy genre. Can't Hardly Wait is the first out of the gate, and while every one of its characters can be defined by two or three words—the tortured geek (Charlie Korsmo), the misunderstood prom queen (Hewitt), the evil jock (Peter Facinelli), the doleful protagonist (Ethan Embry), the Janeane Garofalo type (Lauren Ambrose), the white homeboy (Seth Green), and more—it's refreshingly fast-paced. For starters, it's a true ensemble piece: Set mostly during a single house party the night of high-school graduation, it cuts effortlessly from wacky situation to wacky situation, with various characters getting drunk, finding love while locked in a bathroom together, unleashing inner rock 'n' rollers, seeking revenge, ending and beginning relationships, and trashing the home of a peripheral character's parents. All the activity outshines the central plot device—will Doleful Protagonist confess his love to Misunderstood Prom Queen, who's just been dumped by Evil Jock?—which is fairly forgettable. Can't Hardly Wait is, of course, riddled with flaws, from the ludicrously broad characterizations (there's even, honest to God, a wacky exchange student who says lewd things—because he doesn't know what they mean!) to the overbearing modern-rock soundtrack. And the film falls into a few of the traps set for twentysomething screenwriters: Some of the obligatory nostalgic reference points (Scooby Doo, Barry Manilow) are anachronistic, and the last thing anyone needed was another movie with an aspiring writer as its emotional centerpiece. But the film deserves credit, both for its breezy pacing and its uncommon tendency to make its characters smarter and geekier than they might have been.