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R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 06/11/1998,

Can't Hardly Wait

Can't Hardly Wait steals from smarter, edgier teen flicks (Risky Business, Heathers, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) as shamelessly as a cheater in trigonometry class. And, thanks to the universality of high-school indignity, first-time directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont almost get away with it.

Party of Five's Bambi-eyed Jennifer Love Hewitt throws a wicked "Whatever!" look as a misunderstood prom queen who's dumped by the asshole jock (Tom Cruise look-alike Peter Facinelli) on the day of the big graduation bash. No sooner is the keg tapped than the film convenes the usual yearbook stereotypes: the vengeful nerd (Charlie Korsmo); the good kid (Ethan Embry); the cynical outsider (Lauren Ambrose); and the class clown, an ebonics-spewing Caucasian homeboy (Seth Green).

All get down for a familiar night of metamorphoses, memories, and making out, with the subplots -- especially Korsmo's tipsy transformation -- outshining the bland coupling of Hewitt and Embry. Still, despite flashes of bawdy humor, Can't Hardly Wait is just like its beer: it starts out frothy but soon goes flat.

-- Alicia Potter